Western Ruahines Aug 31 – Sep 1

Five set off from Glendas’, with Trish to be collected from  the Hatuma café, Murry  from Norsewood and finally Jeanette from just south of Dannevirke. We arrived at Petersons Road end just after 10am for the three of us, Murry, Laura and John to start off in the Oroua River. intending to use an old track up on to the southern end of the Whanahuia Range, this had probably not been maintained since the Forest Service days, late 1980’s. It started just below the Tunupo Stream confluence.

We met Ian, a Ruahine User Group meeting attendee and hunter, at our critical turnoff point, (he was mentoring a group of five high school students on their DOE excursion to Iron Gate hut) who screwed up his face when I mentioned our intended route, commenting that it would be a real battle with a probably a non existent track and heaps of windfall. We had tents but on considering what he had said, coupled with the time, now about 1pm, that we would be pushing it to get through, a group decision was made not to proceed with paln A. Instead, we left our packs there and continued up the Oroua to Iron Gate hut (and heard a blue duck call there) and  then returned to our packs  and out to Alice Nash Heritage lodge for the night, just making it without torches at 6.20pm. I had said at the HTC meeting before the trip that the fall back position would be retreating to the Heritage lodge. To save having to walk in the dark from the lodge out the couple of km to the car-park to phone the Rangiwahia group, I kept my phone on and at the last spur before the lodge  had a signal bar on the phone, so left a text message on Lex’s phone and a voice message on his, Anne’s and Derek’s.

We slept in, breakfasted al fresco on the porch in the sun after a good frost, then trundled out, taking a side tour down to the river to the camp ground. This is vast area  on a wide river terrace. On the last hill up to the carpark my phone went at 11am with a text, from Anne, where were we etc. They had not got any messages from us and were half way up to the crest of the Whanahuia Range expecting to see us coming over the top ( as we might have done as planned). I phoned then and got Trish who detailed their whereabouts and that they would be out to pick us up in about four hours.

Just as well it was a perfect sunny day, cloudless sky and a picnic table for us to spend the hours at. There were cups of tea till the water bottles ran out, but Laura had a filter which had some dam water put through it which helped. We ate all manner of nibbles, biscuits, lollies…. then another round. I played some 70’s music from my phone, did some map and compass  direction of travel bearing exercises for Laura, spoke to day people as they came and went and the local landowner Chris happened to arrive and told us the extent of his farm.  It was a perfect cloudless day and so perfect views were seen of Mt Egmont, Ruapehu and Tongariro. At the head of the Oroua valley, the high ground around Te Hekenga was glistening with snow/ice. It would have been a just superb day to have been up there.

About 3.30 our chariot arrived and carted us off, on the way stopping at Ashurst for fuel, then Woodville to the fish and chip shop for the inevitable graze, preceded by the free cup of tea ! After doing the deliveries of the three we had collected on the way down, our eventual time back to Glenda’s was about 8pm.  A satisfying time was had by all in perfect weather. Laura had not been to the western Ruahines so was well pleased. We checked all the rodent traps on the way in and removed and reset five that had fresh rats and another five that had been sprung but still had baits.

Rangiwahia Hut Party: It was about 11.30 when the party set off from the Renfrew Road carpark for the Rangiwhaia Hut. Once over the stile the signpost states it is 2 hours the hut. The forest at this stage is lush beech forest and as altitude is gained the forest changes; at the hut it is alpine with tussock.

The path is well benched with numerous steps of various heights and treads. (There was a major upgrade of the track in 2013). Over the Mangahuia Stream and a deep ravine is a picturesque arched wooden bridge. Before the bridge the track detours via a zig zag around a major active slip.

At the hut we settled in, had lunch, explored the environs and brought in firewood. In the 1930’s the track was established for servicing the Rangiwahaia Ski Club and there was a rope tow above the current hut. A nod to this former use is the variety of skis attached to the hut on which one hangs gear. The wood shed was well stocked with firewood but that closest to the door was rather damp. Jeanette climbed up the pile and threw down some of the drier wood. Derek made good use of the axe and split some wood into smaller blocks.

With it getting cooler, we had lit the fire and were inside reading, drinking tea or coffee and relaxing when at about 5.30 Derek assured us all that we needed to come outside. He was right, for from the hut there was a fabulous view of Mt Ruapehu floating in the clouds. As we kept watching the cloud broke up and not only was Ruapehu visible but so was Ngaruhoe. With the sun setting in the west Taranaki was visible. What a wonderful location for a hut.

At this time of the year it is not necessary to book a bunk but with only 13 available it was a concern that there would be bunks for us all. (The bunks are single in 3 areas; 6 in one area, 5 bunks in another with the window as a fire exit and the third area was two benches in the common room area). Rangiwhaia hut, like Sunrise Hut, is often tramped as a day trip so the cars in the carpark are no indication of how many are staying overnight. When our group arrived there was a party of 7 in the six bunk area, we had the other, the party of two slept on benches and a young French girl slept on a mat on the floor.

With night setting in we prepared our dinners and sat at the table to dine. Lex had brought a wonderful gas lamp which allowed the dining area of the hut to be well lit. The group of seven was from Wellington, they had come well prepared with snacks and even a newspaper which was shared with us. After dinner both groups sat around the table sharing Lindt (theirs) and Whitakers (ours) chocolates. (Apparently if you eat peppermint chocolate there is no need to clean your teeth). We also joined in the completion of a crossword puzzle.

Sunday dawned fine; Ruapehu, Ngaruhoe and Tongariro were resplendent in their beauty. The views are expensive; from the Kaimanawa Range, across to Mt Taranaki and all the farmland in between. Our plan for the day was to have a leisurely breakfast and then explore the Deadmans track behind the hut. We would, hopefully, meet up with the A Party.

Our plan unfolded as prescribed. The other hut inhabitants set off on their journeys. A Hunter and his partner back to the carpark via Deadmans Track, the Wellington group the return trip to the carpark and the young French lady to the carpark via Deadmans track. After a leisurely breakfast Trish, Jeanette. Lex and I were off to explore the tussock track behind the hut. Derek had already been up in the tussock and was disconcerted that the trio had not appeared. We saw a couple appear over a distant hilltop. When there was only two, after dismissing a few conspiracy theories, we established it was the hunter and partner.

Trish’s and Jeanette’s phone were the only two phones that had reception. Saturday, Jeanette had left a message on Monty’s phone so now it was Trish’s turn to send a text. Bingo we made contact. Monty returned the call; it was just after 11.00 a.m. Their party was at the Peterson Road Carpark. Where were we? Ah about 4 hours away enjoying the vista of the surrounding ranges. We would return to the hut, have lunch, descend to the carpark and then drive to collect them.

Party :  Murry  A, Derek B, Anne D, Trish H, Lex S, Laura R, Jeanette L and John M

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