Kiwi Mouth Hut – Manson Hut – Kiwi Saddle Hut, Labour Weekend, 20-23 October 2023
Banner Photo: The interior of Old Manson Hut – Beds ‘R Us, this is not
Studying the map in the Lakes car park, it quickly became clear the planned four-day tramp needed modifying. Plan B was agreed: leave out Rocks Ahead Hut and just go out to Manson, returning via Kiwi Saddle Hut on Sunday.
John D decided to join us for the first night in Kiwi Mouth Hut. It had been a while since any in the group (except Julia) had carried a four-day pack, so it was going to be tough! We slowly warmed to the task and made good progress, reaching the Cameron Hut turn-off in reasonable time.
We lunched along the Cameron track in the shade, as the day was really warming up, then moved across the small saddle to the main Kiwi Mouth/Kiwi Saddle track, and the steep descent to Kiwi Mouth Hut, where we were all pleased to get heavy packs off our backs.
The four-bunk hut sits on the confluence of the Ngaruroro River and Kiwi Stream, with lots of room for camping. Five decided to put up tents; Julia and I stayed in the hut and, after a refreshing dip/wash in the stream, relaxed for the rest of the afternoon.
Saturday dawned sunny and clear. We packed up and said goodbye to John, who was returning via Kiwi Creek, and we left round 8.30, following the Ngaruroro River downstream for a short distance and crossing the swing bridge which takes you to the start of the ascent onto the tops. Interestingly, all the orange markers have been removed, with only a few pink ribbons at the start to guide you to the bottom of the climb. Is this a reflection of the widely suspected DoC policy of ‘only look after the “front country” so no maintaining of the “back country”’? The climb went on, the day got hotter, and above the bush line we had views down to Manson Creek and beyond, past Mt Meany and the Kaimanawas to the mountains of the Central Plateau.
Once past the high point (1311m), it was easy going and we reached Manson Hut at 12pm. The well-kept, six-bunk hut sits just below the ridge line on the edge of the beech forest, and looks towards the Manson tops. Geoff and Juliet put up their tents, we had lunch, relaxed for a bit, then set about exploring the Manson tops. Geoff continued further afield, looking for a campsite he had been told about. On returning, Juliet and I checked out the historical Old Manson Hut. A 200m steep descent takes you to the hut sitting on an open, grassy area sheltered by beech forest. It’s recently had some attention and is in pretty good condition, although the beds didn’t look that comfy! Geoff returned with tales of his success, and soon after it was white-out conditions with the forecast bad weather closing in.
It was still white-out next morning, so with no views we retraced our route back down to Kiwi Mouth. A leisurely morning tea brew-up then a straightforward trip up Kiwi Creek, arriving at Kiwi Saddle Hut just as the rain started to get heavier. Two hunters installed there baulked a bit at us arriving and quickly arranged to be picked up (thank goodness for cellphone coverage). They packed and departed, leaving us with a cosy fire to dry everything out.
As predicted, Monday was for clearing weather and as the cloud lifted we headed out for the car park, taking the Castle Camp, Kaiarahi, Rogue Ridge route. The clouds were hovering around the main range in the east but out west the sky was blue and Ruapehu seemed to dance above a layer of cloud. We had a break in the sun at Castle Camp, then the climb onto Kaiarahi where the breeze was a little chilly, along the tops, stopping at the turn-off to Rogue Ridge for lunch. Then it was down from the Rogue, across the river and that climb up to the car park, arriving there by 2pm.
It had been a successful weekend and ticked a lot of boxes – especially for Craig and Anne, as they are new to our area. Thanks everyone.
Trampers: Craig and Anne Mountfort, Juliet Gillick, Geoff Donkin, Julia Mackie, a cameo appearance by John Dobbs, and reporter Alison Greer