Monday, October 24, 2016

Waipakihi Wanderings

Labour Weekend is always a good excuse to head for the hills, so this year I dragged a few friends down to the Kaimanawa Ranges (east of Ruapehu).

Day 1 was up and over the Urchin track, then picking our way up the Waipakihi River for 3 hours. To start with this was nice tussock flats, interspersed with deer trails through the scrub, but as we got further upstream it turned into more of a scrub bash. At 6pm we found a spot on the river bank for our bivvy bags and settled in for the night. It was clear and cold - there was frost forming before we went to bed. Lying in my sleeping bag gazing up at the stars I had a sense of contentment and satisfaction.

Camping beside the Waipakihi River

Reluctantly we donned our frozen shoes and socks in the morning to continue up the river for 1 1/2 hours. We were soon in the sunshine and cold feet were forgotten. Turning off up to Middle Range signalled the next stage of our trip. A stiff climb up on to the tops then several kilometres of rolling ridge travel. Cloud was brushing the high point at 1660m as we ascended, but dispersed before we got up there. This was my first time leading an off-track trip so I was glad to have good visibility to navigate. Progress was fairly quick, and it was satisfying to be able to look back and trace out the route we had come. Reaching Thunderbolt was a non-event as despite the name it is merely another rounded bump on the ridge. Motutere marked the beginning of the steep descent through the beech forest down into the Waipakihi River. On the flats opposite the track end we found a campsite in the edge of the bush, where there was also a hunter's bivvy and more good tent sites nearby. We got a campfire going and enjoyed the evening. Much warmer than the previous night!

We had come along the ridge from the high point on the left

At the end of Middle Range (Motutere)

Waking up under the beech trees to melodic birdsong and the rich smell of forest was very peaceful. A relaxed breakfast and then we strolled half an hour down the river flats to the Urchin track. From here it was just a stiff climb up and over the Urchin and down the other side to the car. A very satisfying weekend adventure!

Camp 2

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