Kiwi Saddle, Castle Camp, Kaiarahi, Rogue Ridge, Saturday 2 December 2023
Banner Photo: The views to the north on the Smith Russell track
Nine trampers met at Park Island on a calm but cloudy morning, and drove to Omahu to pick up Di. Following an uneventful trip, apart from a bit of low cloud, we reached the turn-off to the Lakes car park and followed a new (but actually old Kuripapango Road) route through the forestry to the car park; the normal route is closed due to logging activities.
The weather was warm and completely calm.
Six in the faster group headed off to Kiwi Saddle intending to do the full circuit, while Sue, Mary and Amelia followed behind, aiming for Kiwi Saddle and back.
We six were soon up to Kuripapango, with the climb being easier than I last remembered (maybe the weather or conversation took the edge off). Two did a minor detour to the trig, as neither had been there before, but unfortunately the view was non-existent due to low cloud.
After another hour and a half with only a couple of short stops (and myself pulling out about 200 wilding pines), we made it to Kiwi Saddle. The hut was completely surrounded by an assortment of tents, which we later found out belonged to a group doing their Duke of Edinburgh Silver award expedition.
After a short break, we headed out towards Castle Camp. The weather had cleared up a bit, so we were able to get a few views of Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe. There was a cool breeze for a while, but fortunately it didn’t last long.
At Castle Camp, we had our lunch. While we were eating, the Duke of Edinburgh group arrived from Kaiarahi on their way back to Kiwi Saddle.
After a short climb with everyone stopping a few times to pull more pines, we made it up to Kaiarahi and then headed down to Rogue Ridge. We passed ‘The Tits’, and at the turn-off to old Kaweka Hut Track, Geoff and I decided to go down that way, while the others continued down Rogue Ridge.
I had not been down this track before, and it turned out to be nowhere near as bad as people have described. There is a fairly steep descent but it doesn’t last as long as Rogue does. After the descent, the native forest is quite pleasant to walk through.
There had been a fair amount of rain recently so we were not able to cross the Tutaekuri River this time without getting wet feet. But the weather was good and the cars close by, so this did not matter much.
We soon made it back to the car park, with those who had done Rogue arriving about ten minutes later (seems it is a bit shorter going down Kaweka Hut Track). We reached home around 6pm, after a fairly long but pleasant and interesting hike.
Sue Martin reports on the shorter tramp:
We followed the five front-runners up to Kuripapango, pulling out wilding pines that they missed. Because Mary and Amelia hadn’t been to the trig, it was necessary to check it out. Unfortunately, when we arrived at the trig, the cloud hung so low there was no view.
We snatched a quick cuppa and a bite to eat, then continued on the track. Shining cuckoos and tomtits were the only birdcalls we heard all day.
The weather was very still, no wind, and now and again the sun poked through the clouds. That’s when we got views of the tops of Mt Ruapehu and Mt Ngauruhoe, but one had to be very quick with the camera before the low clouds smothered them again.
With Amelia having bagged another hut and the front group been and gone, we ate an early lunch, then headed back the same way. There were more wilding pines that we hadn’t seen to pull out on the sides of the track and plenty in the clay pans.
We met no one during the entire day until we reached the car park. As good trampers do, we saved them a road walk with a lift to the start of their route to Mackintosh Hut.
Trampers: Di Reid, Juliet Gillick, Ali Hollington, Rebecca Thomson, Geoff Donkin, Amelia Moorhead, Mary Campbell, and reporters Julian Phillips and Sue Martin