Upper Te Hoe Hut, Whirinaki FP, Sat/Sun 24/25 August 2019. Map BG38
Banner Pix: Sidling through the bush
We watched the temperature gauge plummet as we left the Napier/Taupo road and headed along the potholes to our first stop, Plateau car park, from where Julia was to start her six- or seven-hour tramp via the Upper Whirinaki track to Upper Te Hoe Hut.
The rest of us (six in total) were headed to Upper Te Hoe Hut on the track from Pukahunui Road end. The signposted time is four hours.We were greeted by wind and 3 degrees C, so were keen to get moving. At the start of the track, we encountered several small bridges and lots of debris from a recent track clearance. But it wasn’t long before we were heading up out of the valley. Lots of fern lined the track, along with mountain horopito. The main type of tree here is beech, but you couldn’t tell what they were from the bark, as they are all well covered in moss and fern. There are many tall, old trees, some of which took a hammering in the storms of a year ago. Those remaining are nevertheless magnificent. Once the track had levelled out somewhat, we seemed to be forever going round corners as we walked along the side of a ridge. We stopped at a helipad for a snack but moved on pretty quickly when hail began to fall. From here, we were on the top of the ridge, with stunning views on either side.
The junction to Upper Whirinaki track marks the two-hour (halfway) point. We continued on for another hour, sidling through stunning bush, before the descent to the hut and the Te Hoe River. The sun shone brightly at the hut so, after bunk-bagging, we sat outside until sunlight faded.Then Simon insisted we go and look at the bridge, on the Central Te Hoe Hut track. It was a 10-minute return walk. As we were settling back into the hut around 4.30, three trail runners from Rotorua appeared, having covered 49 kms in 10 hours. Not only were we impressed by the distance they’d run but also by their small packs (6-7 kgs), which were comparable to our day packs. These held all their stuff for two days’ running and an overnight in a hut.
Two of the guys were firemen and when we asked if they’d like to take over fire duties, they said their jobs were to put them out, not make them. We were up to 10 (when Julia arrived) in a nine-bunk hut, but two trampers graciously offered to top-and-tail so everyone had a mattress or part thereof.
To our relief, Julia rocked up at 5.30 but it had been a very demanding tramp and she was pretty shattered – and that’s for another report. After dinner, we sat round chatting until cold and tiredness had us retreating to our sleeping bags.We awoke to icy conditions. Simon lingered in bed, watching the runners scramble to leave at 7:15am. Keen to get warm, we didn’t dally and were on our way by 8am. The climb out of the river valley (and some sunshine) warmed us up but as soon as the climb was over, we added another layer and on went the hats and gloves. The weather soon became cloudy and mist covered the distant tops. Stopping again at the helipad, the views were better than the day before, because there was less cloud cover. We were back at the cars before noon, to a slightly warmer 6 degrees.
On the way home, there was a stop at the Tarawera cafe for a hot drink, then it was onward to a balmy 17 degrees in Napier.
Many thanks to our drivers, Simon and Bruce, and to tramp organiser Julia who had sussed out the roads and track a few weeks earlier. She even put pink markers on the route so we didn’t lose our way.
Trampers: Dorothy Sole, Bruce Hodgson, Mark Jenkins, Fiona Chiverrell and reporters Marie Deroles and Simon Hill, with Julia Mackie taking the long route
Julia’s tramp report
Plateau Road end to Upper Te Hoe Hut, via Upper Whirinaki Hut.
This turned out to be more challenging than expected. Leaving Plateau Road-end at 9am, I headed into the Whirinaki Forest Park on a cool morning, arriving at Upper Whirinaki Hut in 1.5 hrs for a welcome break.I left at 11 on the new track (well, it’s not so new). Alison and I had tramped the re-routed track in August 2015, and Les O’Shea and I had walked the old river track in August 2012. I arrived at the new bridge and headed upstream on the true left of the Whirinaki River. There are several high sidles which drop back into the river, which today seemed a little higher and swifter. Then, lo and behold, a slip across the track. I climbed up it and soon saw the orange marker on the other side. I continued, remembering that it was a long way up to the saddle where the track joins the Upper Te Hoe/Pukahunui track.
After a while, I was getting fed up with the sound of the river and looking forward to the climb. But I reached a point where I could not find the track continuing along the river. Maybe it drops into the river? I checked this out, noticing that there was a lot of tree fall in the river upstream and no sign of the track. As it was running so swiftly, I decided to head uphill and then bisect the track again when it turned upwards (see diagram).I took a GPS reading and a bearing to a waypoint which I had created, indicating 150m to reach the track. All good, except that the terrain was steep and some bushbashing would be required. Getting closer, checking my bearing and distance, I was within 75m and negotiating under bluffs and across gullies. Not for the inexperienced, and I was glad I did not have anyone with me to take care of.
As planned, I bisected the track, and gave myself three cheers. Now just the uphill slog to the junction. I reached it at 4pm, and knowing it was downhill from here, I could cruise along at speed.
I reached the hut at 5.30, having taken six and a half hours from Upper Whirinaki Hut. This was exactly as noted on the DoC website when describing the Te Pua-a-Tane Circuit.
Time for some refreshments and bed.