Middle Hill – Whetu – Makino, Kaweka FP, Saturday 30 November 2019
Banner Pix: The broad top, below Whetu looking northwest to the Makino Hut track.
Nine of us left Park Island in two vehicles at 7am, looking forward to our tramp up to Whetu, via Middle Hill Hut then completing the loop coming down to Makino Hut and back to the Makahu road-end.
Arriving at Pinks car park, seven of us changed and mingled while Alison and Juliet shuffled cars around, leaving one at the Makino track end of Makahu Road for end-of-day, and then driving back to join us for the start of our tramp.
The weather was perfect except for the high humidity and rain, thunder and lightning forecast for the late afternoon; we knew we had a good day for tramping, as long as we could make it back to the cars in good time.
We set off at 8.30. It was going to be a long day.We walked parallel to the Mangatutunui stream for about 10 minutes before crossing the bridge and starting the 200m climb up to the ridge. Apart from this climb, the track up to Middle Hill Hut is very pleasant, a couple of puffy bits with undulations but nothing to complain about. The manuka and native cabbage trees were coming out in flower, which made for a pretty impressive display. There was also wild orchid along the track with small, delicate flowers.
We arrived at Middle Hill Hut in good time and had a quick hydration drink before starting the long steady hike up the Camp Spur Track toward the Whetu high point. The sun was well out by this stage and the humidity was exhausting, but we were protected by the large beech and pepper tree canopy. It’s interesting to note the higher the altitude, the smaller the beech tree.We trekked up, up and up some more before eventually breaking out of the beech forest onto a rocky, scrubby area where we could look out at the higher rocky terrain to which we were heading; so we had another quick break before starting up towards Whetu. After about another 30 minutes over rock, scree, moss, lichen and low scrub, we found a good spot to stop and have lunch overlooking the western side of the Kaweka Range, where we could just see the small speck of Ballard Hut in the distance. Ali and Andrew were the only two keen enough to continue over to Whetu. The rest of us decided to enjoy our lunch before making our way down. The views were spectacular and from our vantage point, we could see much-eroded mountain slopes and our track down, marked with warratahs along a ridge, to a saddle and off over the other side.
By 2pm, we were back into the bush after negotiating the steep terrain. We arrived at Makino Hut at 3.50 where we once again rehydrated and had a rest.
Alison, Juliet, Geoff, Ali and Andrew made way back down the track to the cars, hoping to beat the forecast rain. Thick clouds had already started to gather over the larger ranges of the western Kawekas so the four of us that were left (Sue, Doug, Lynette and John Bennett) decided it was time to get a move on.
Unfortunately, none of us avoided the rain and arrived at tramp’s end saturated – which made for a very difficult change into dry clothes before heading home.
We were all back in the cars by 6pm, after a nine-hour tramp; a long day, but a very satisfying achievement.
On our way down the Makino track, there were two traps with a possum in each, so we took note of the numbers to report to Robyn. Her and Barrie were up in area on the following weekend checking traps, so they cleared the offending kill.
Thanks to Alison and Juliet for providing the transport and Doug, our tramp organiser.
Trampers: Alison Greer, Juliet Gillick, Geoff Donkin, Sue Martin, Lynette Morgan, Ali Hollington, visitor Andrew and reporter John Bennett