Corner Creek Saddle – Remutaka Forest Park

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  • #43937 Reply
    Tony Gazley

    Corner Creek Saddle

    September 1950

    Sarah recently wrote a report for the newsletter describing a trip from Palliser Bay to the Orongorongo Valley via North Saddle (or Wharekauhau Saddle), in which she notes that it was not entirely straightforward.

    The eastern side of the Remutaka Range certainly includes some rugged country that provides plenty of scope for adventures very close to Wellington, and over the past couple of years club members have been tramping in the Corner Creek area a number of times and written their stories, including: Corner Creek to Mt Matthews in photos, Mt Matthews from Corner Creek, and Mt Matthews – a circumnavigation. They have also visited the impressive canyon above the Waiorongomai with its two 50 metre high waterfalls.

    However, it is not surprising to note that people have been having their own adventures in the area for a long time. Consider the story below written 71 years ago in the September 1950 WTMC newsletter, when the club was only 3 years old, that describes a trip intending to go over Corner Creek Saddle, but the party then realised late in the day that they had unknowingly crossed Wharekauhau Saddle! Some things never change….


    The following, George Thompson (Leader), Frank McGowan, Charlie Vial, Laurie Haig, Ves Secker, Stan Potter, Titch Graham, and to keep the tone of the conversation sweet, a lady, Les Clendon, left Wellington by the usual channel, the 8:42 train, bound for Baines Hut, Orongorongo. We arrived at midnight after an uneventful trip and retired straight away. On Saturday, in light rain, we set out for our destination – Laws Hut, Palliser Bay via Corner Creek Saddle.

    After seeing the Leader’s photos on the Notice Board the party was very exuberant. Even heavy showers could not dampen the enthusiasm for that wonderful saddle we were going to cross. The North Matthew Stream was our road and half-way to the saddle one Titch Graham, mighty stalker, showed his prowess as the leader with goaty bleats called the attention of a young goat. The goat won. At the top of the North Matthew stream there is a fork, the left going to the Wharekauhau Saddle. We took the right into the low heavy cloud. A quarter of an hour from the fork we started to climb to what we thought was the saddle, a rocky gut running out into a bluff. The leader had not been over this saddle for 12 years and as the loose rocky nature of the country is changing we took this as the Corner Creek Saddle. It was not.

    It is a good policy to carry a little rope when tramping – we had taken 100 feet of alpine rope and boy-o-boy was that needed. As the rock face steepened so we got slower, and the rope came into play. The knowledge of rope-work was confined to about three members of the party, still a good job was done hauling up the rest like sacks of potatoes. Titch excelled himself on steep loose rock taking the top belays. Getting near the top Frank took off his pack to facilitate matters. He assured the leader that it was firmly wedged in a crevice, but it proceeded to take off down the bluff into the mist below. Stan, the last man, said he heard it for 20 seconds from the time he last saw it. After a 2 hour struggle on the face we gained the ridge in the rain.

    The criterion of those who know how to climb was the absence of scratches on the legs. Have the legs healed yet Charlie? Frank and Titch took a steep grass spur back down the North Matthew Stream to look for the ‘flying saucer’ and they were lucky and found it. After a few repairs we struck down through the bush and scrub to the supposed Corner Creek. The bush opened out into a headwater and good going down a stream brought us to the top of a waterfall. The party did not appreciate my quotation from Shelly;
    ‘And like downward smoke, the slender stream,
    To pause a while, and fall, did seem.’

    With a little confidence plus the rope we were away downstream below the fall and hell bent for the mouth and Palliser Bay. Towards the mouth the leader said, ‘This isn’t Corner Creek, it is Hingataka Creek. No. It may be the Wharekauhau.’ Someone remarked, ‘Make up your bl- – dy mind.’ So we decided on the Wharekauhau Stream. It was too. We hit the coast at Palliser Bay and tramped for an hour and a half to between Little and Big Mukamuka Streams to ‘Buck’ Laws Hut. We arrived in the dark and retired early after tea.

    Sunday was fine and we ‘coasted’ around the coast to Eastbourne stopping for lunch at Paiaka Creek, Fitzroy Bay. We also had a small stop at Lake Kohangapiripiri to launch a slab of wood. With a washed up light bulb we aptly named it the good ship ‘Tongue and Meat.’

    It was a good trip with plenty of variety. The only trouble – I was abused for calling it the shortest day trip.

    George Thompson.

    #43961 Reply

    It’s good to see that the noble name of Tongue and Meats was in use in the club in 1950. Sadly it seems to have almost died out these days.

    #43968 Reply
    Tony Gazley

    It was a fun name at the time but it’s way past its use-by date. Good that it is gone and nearly forgotten.

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