47th Anniversary tramp to Kaweka J, Kaweka FP, Saturday 9 October 2021. Map: BJ37
Banner Photo: Celebration at the memorial cairn
A group of 15 eager trampers set out from the Makahu Saddle, Kaweka Road car park for the 7.5km ascent of Kaweka J – the highest point in the Kaweka range (elevation 1724 m), with Gordon (the 16th in our party) heading for Dominie bivvy only.
The group took the popular option of going up the Trails Spur Track. It didn’t seem long before we stopped for an early morning tea break – a quarter of the tramp completed! Some sat inside the Dominie bivvy while the others used its shelter from the dominant wind and enjoyed the sun’s warmth.
The colourful string of trampers followed the regularly placed waratahs and cairns marking the final uphill section to the Heretaunga Tramping Club memorial cairn. Those mountain goats amongst us made light work of this section. Others, like me, welcomed these markers as a chance to stop and enjoy the views, marvel at how far we’d climbed and suck in the much-needed oxygen while mustering some more grit to push on upwards.
Pockets of snow added contrast to nature’s colourful palette and gave us a chance to leave our footprints and make the odd snowball to fire at fellow trampers. Small, clear-watered tarns also broke up the terrain, adding interesting elements to the surroundings.
At the summit, we were rewarded with 360-degree, spectacular panoramic views with the Ruapehu snow-clad cousins making a short appearance before cloud blocked them out.
The views weren’t the only reward at the top. Sue Martin, amazingly, produced a generous bottle of bubbles even encased in cooler packs, along with glasses for everyone. She’d lugged these all the way up in her pack. Marie also whipped packets of chocolate biscuits from her pack. These treats were shared so we could celebrate the club’s anniversary in grand style.Celebrations over and with the notorious wind making its presence felt, it was time to set out for the return to the car park. This tramp offers a choice of ways to descend. So half the group opted to return the way they had come while the others headed down the right side with the knowledge that they’d be encountering some potentially challenging scree slopes.
There was a lot of ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing’ at the colours of the landscape as it changed in reflection of the harsh conditions the fauna survives in. The changing vegetation was like a thermometer, with the different species indicating the various growing conditions on the descent.Although the sun shone most of the way, the wind was up and giving us a bit of a hard time in places; it was a layers-on and layers-off sort of day as we matched our gear with the challenges the cold wind was dishing up, between the warm sheltered pockets. There was one casualty to the wind – Matt’s hat disappeared in a huge gust, never to be seen again!
Both descending groups reported looking across the valleys and noticing the ant-like figures of the other group inching their way along ridge lines. Those who descended on the right side were pleased to report that the challenges of the scree faces have been reduced by the recent growth of pesky wilding pines. They provided strategically positioned hand-holds so those descending slid safely from one pine to the next – like skiers slaloming a downhill run.
Once back at the vehicles, both groups enjoyed time in the sun reflecting on the day and comparing stories of the two descents. A number of the first-timers were pleased to have knocked Kaweka J off their ‘to do‘ list, as many of them were in the aborted 2020 tramp when the wind triumphed, reducing the tramp to the more sheltered option along the Kaweka flats.
Highlights of our day: making it to the top, the surprise of seeing Tongariro, the great weather, making it back to the car park and Matt’s successful trial of a lighter pair of tramping shoes. And, of course, top of the list for most were the bubbles ‘n chocolate biscuit celebration.
Thanks to Sue, Marie, the drivers and Geoff (the tramp leader) for a challenging and fun day.
Trampers: Razwana Leonard, Sue Martin, Geoff Donkin, Bruce Hodgson, Rosemary Jeffery, Johanne Karlsson, Dorothy Sole, Gordon Tapp, Lynette Morgan, Marie Deroles, Sue Gribble, John Bennett, Campbell Living, Kate Fuller, Matthew Nisbett and reporter Margaret Palmer