Sunrise Hut and Armstrong Saddle, Friday October 23 2009. Map: BK36
Trampers: Gordon Tapp, Paul Exeter, Murray Goss, Ray Slavin, Paul Hendy, Christopher Redfern-Wilson, Wade Sawyer, John Dobbs and Murray White
Hawke’s Bay Anniversary Day, and the weather report the previous night suggested south-easterlies and showers dying out. However, we woke to light drizzle and departed from EIT at 7.15am. It proved to be a trip with an unusual factor – all males. As we travelled down State Highway 50 and along the Makaroro Road, we were taken by how green the vegetation was and how the rabbit and hare population was flourishing.
As we drew closer to the Ruahines, we could see a band of cloud clinging to the tops and an overnight dusting of snow. At the car park, we exchanged introductions, as we had two new participants – Wade and Christopher – and gave a brief outline about the trip, which was largely redundant because everyone had been at least to Sunrise Hut anyway.
We started up a soggy track, showing evidence of considerable damage from heavy snowfalls some weeks earlier. The streams on the way were also swollen through recent rain and snow-melt. John Dobbs was the enthusiastic purveyor of information about various vegetation, trees and the clematis that was in full bloom. Paul Hendy, Wade Sawyer and Christopher Redfern-Wilson took many photo opportunities on the way. While the temperatures were quite mild initially and there was little wind, it all changed as we gained altitude. Paul Exeter and Murray White ended up wearing three layers while on the move. As the track gave way to rutted, scoured-out clay and coarse stones, small patches of snow could be seen and the odd snowflake drifted down. It was evident that winter had not entirely given up its grip on the range above.
The first arrived at Sunrise Hut at around 10.35am and enjoyed their morning tea or early lunch. When Murray Goss arrived, he set about coaxing the gas heater to life, while Paul Exeter put on the gas rings on the bench, and then entertained the gathering multitude by standing on a stool and warming his nether regions!
We decided to set off on up towards Armstrong Saddle. Initially, the weather had cleared and we basked in some sunshine on the way. We could see the tops and Waipawa Saddle-66, but the views to the East were obscured by low cloud. To the South, there was broken cloud, which made an appearance before we had reached the saddle. The conditions there meant that we all put on our parkas before moving up towards the Top Maropea turn off. By now, we were tramping through snow that, while not thick, was consistent. We reached the turn-off and it seemed to be universally agreed that Top Maropea would not be visited today. The cameras were out and active, and Christopher showed a gymnastic ability in posing for various photographs which Paul Hendy was busy snapping. Very rapidly, the conditions changed, with black clouds threatening over 66; the sun disappeared to leave a monochromatic landscape. Gordon Tapp, Paul Exeter, John Dobbs and Murray White beat a hasty retreat back to the hut, while the photographers rung whatever they could out of the changing landscape.
Back at the hut, lunches were eaten and the humorous comments flowed. We were all fascinated by an advanced piece of technology that Wayne Sawyer had brought with him. It could not only receive e-mails, take photos and do all manner of things, but included a compass and a spirit level – clever! It is always interesting having new people in the party and we enjoyed talking to Wade about his role at TVHB and Christopher’s musical interests. We hope to see more of them on future tramps.
The trip down from Sunrise was uneventful, and we once again were blessed with some sunshine as we changed before heading back to Napier.