Waipawa River – Waipawa Saddle – Three Johns – Middle Stream, May 5 2012. Map: BK36 Taoroa Junction
The perigee moon had just risen as the group of seven crossed the Waipawa River and trudged up the hill to the car park and the welcoming sight of the waiting van, after four hours coming downhill through untracked territory.
Nine hours earlier, we had set off up-river, in calm conditions with the cloud surrounding the tops dissipating to reveal blue skies. We made Waipawa Saddle in good time and, looking back down into the river, saw just how steep the climb is.
After a photo-stop, we turned left towards the East and started the short, sharp climb up to the Three Johns (1569m), sidling around to a large rock just below the summit on the main ridge. On peering over the edge or eastern side, we studied the steep grassy slope we would be going down to reach the stream below.
It was noon, so we settled down for lunch on the western sunny side, out of the cool breeze with spectacular views over to Te Atuaoparapara (1687m), the Hikurangi Range and – to the south – Rangioteatua (1704m). Out came the GPS and maps to help identify Mangaweka (1731m), the highest point in the Ruahine Range. There were more group photos to record the scene, GPS readings of the rock we were behind, and then it was over the edge!
It was steep and icy in places, but not too difficult and soon we reached the start of the small side stream leading into Middle Stream. We made good progress at first, but later slowed as the rocks became slippery. Careful footwork was necessary.
For four hours, we manoeuvred our way round boulders, slid (mostly on our bottoms) down, over or round waterfalls, scrambled through buddleia and tutu and finally arrived at the track to the grassy banks by the Smith Stream track.
Most were wet, some more than others, depending on the deepness of the stream they had fallen into. It was so good to finally be out of the cold water. With time and daylight against us, we soon got warm hightailing it across the grassy track back to the Waipawa River and the comfort of our warm van. Thanks, folks, for not being grumpy!
The four members who had done a shorter day, had to wait for us to return. Thanks to them, and Colin for getting us home just in time for some of us to go out again for dinner that night!
Party A – to Middle Stream via Three Johns: Geoff Donkin, John Dobbs, Jenny Burns, Simon Hill, Julia Mackie, reporter Alison Greer and visitor Phil Enticott
Party B – to Smith Stream: Colin McNatty, Sue Martin, Marc Marchal and Isobel Holdaway