Poutaki Hut, Ruahine FP, Wednesday 25 October 2023
Banner Photo: Elly and Denise climbing over the windfall
After a failed attempt a month ago, the club finally managed to get to Poutaki Hut. We left the Wakarara car park at 9.15am, most of us on sandals to cross the Makaroro, so we could keep our boots dry for the walk. It was windy, with brief showers of drizzly rain. The sun tried to get through but was not very successful.
The Makaroro was fast-flowing and milky, with still a lot of silt in the water, but neither very wide nor deep. So we managed to cross safely and after putting on our boots, we were on our way. The first 7 km is over a rather boring forestry road. I had last done this tramp with Di in 2015. We remembered walking through the pine forest, but the pine trees had now all been logged and new plants put in, so it was a very open and exposed landscape.
The bridge over Dutch Creek is no more since the cyclone, and we had to wade through the stream – so much for trying to keep our boots and feet dry. Fortunately it was not too deep, so our feet did not get soaked.
After 7km, morning tea, and about 1 hour and 45 minutes, six of us reached the signpost indicating the start of the track to Poutaki Hut, which says 1-1.5 hours to the hut. Ted followed some way behind and decided to give it a miss after looking at the track. But the rest of us carried on.
After 30 metres or so over an overgrown track to cross a small stream, we climbed the very steep ridge to the tops. I remembered the steepness, but it was quite overgrown now as well, and several times we had to work ourselves around the flaxes that have started to work their way onto the track. Colin and Keith were trying to keep their knees safe so they went at their own pace, while Di, Denise, Gerard and I went ahead.
At some point, a fallen tree was blocking our way. It was lying lengthwise on the track, and the only way to get past it was to climb the length of the tree (see photo). After 45 minutes uphill, we arrived on the ridge. The bush there gave us shelter from the wind, fortunately. Here and there we had views but, due to the low clouds, they were limited. Another 45 minutes of ups and downs on a reasonably visible but not-very-well-marked track took us to the mast and the brief descent to Poutaki Hut.
The hut has recently been restored and is looking great, with new bunks, windows, a new deck, a new kitchen bench and firebox, and a new water tank. Thank you to the Backcountry Trust for all the work (see https://www.backcountrytrust.org.nz/projects-blog/poutaki-hut to get an idea of what was done).
We had lunch inside the hut and read through the hut book. It runs from 2007, so clearly the hut does not get many visitors. The last visitor before us was there two months ago. Gerard and I were still in the book (New Year’s Eve 2013), as were Di and I (2015) and the club (2018). It is a pity that such a nice hut has only one track leading to it – and which is in such a bad state.
After 20 minutes, Colin and Keith arrived, so we all stayed a bit longer in the hut so we could start the return trip together. We were very nervous about the downhill, and although it was challenging and we had to be very careful, it was not as bad as we had anticipated. The only incident was when Gerard worked his way down over the fallen tree. He slipped and, while he did not hurt himself, he lost his glasses and he cannot see very well without them. So we spent some time looking for them in the undergrowth and fortunately found them.
After 1 hour and 15 minutes, we were back on the road, where Ted had left an arrow to indicate that he had returned to the car park. Colin and Keith arrived half an hour later. And then it was 7km back via the road to the river and the car park, which was uneventful except for me slipping on a clay patch and falling over, when I was explaining how easy the walking on the road was. We arrived back at the car park around 4.15.
A few statistics:
Distance from the Wakarara Road car park to Poutaki Hut: 19.4km return; total ascent to get to the hut was 690m, according to my watch. The total ascent for the return trip was 188m.
Trampers: Ted Angove, Di Reid, Colin Jones, Denise Bavidge, Keith James, Gerard van de Ven and reporter Elly Govers