Kiwi Saddle Hut, Kaweka FP, Saturday 30 May 2020
Banner Pix: The views to the west along the Smith Russell Track
The weather forecast for Pentecost Saturday had been grim all week, but on the day it was fine, albeit chilly, when we left the Lakes car park for our tramp to Kiwi Saddle.Soon after starting our climb onto Mt Kuripapango, we stopped to take off a layer. There was no wind and the sun was out, so we were heating up fairly quickly. I had not been on this track for a few years and noticed how much the pinus contorta has taken over the landscape. In the past, it was fairly easy to find your way to the summit of the mountain, but these days I would not know where to turn off as it is a forest of trees up there. The track from Kuripapango via the ridge to the viewpoint over the Ngaruroro River used to have a rocky open section. The rocks are still there but nowadays you are completely sheltered from the winds. Having arrived at the viewpoint, we decided to stop for morning tea. Initially our views were completely blocked by the clouds, but slowly it started to open up until we saw Ruapehu in its full glory, and Ngauruhoe with just a tiny cloud covering the summit. From this moment onward, until we were well on our way back, it remained clear. The views were astonishing. We arrived at Kiwi Saddle Hut just after 11am. The hut was cold and in the shade and we walked on for another three minutes to find a sunny spot in the open where we could further enjoy our views of the big mountains. After a good lunch, we retraced our steps, starting with the steep uphill track towards the turn-off to Cameron Hut.
When we were having a break again at the viewpoint, and as the views were slowly disappearing, we met fellow club member Ali and two friends who were out for a weekend in the Kaweka Forest Park.
During the tramp, I was reminded of the sheer number of ups and downs on this track. Gerard and I recorded the track on our watches and found that, overall, we climbed more than 1200 metres, and obviously descended the same number. And, for those of you who are into numbers, the track is 7km one-way.
It was a beautiful day out with great weather and great company. Thank you all.
John Dobbs, Juliet Gillick, Alison Greer, Sue Martin, Di Reid, Shona Tupe, Gerard van de Ven, and reporter Elly Govers