Our drive up on Saturday morning involved lots of discussion about the weather. Were we doing the right thing? Should we maybe go to Rangiwahia instead, avoiding any potentially nasty creek crossings? The severe weather warning was pretty vague as to when exactly to expect the forecast gales and rain. Hmmmm. At Shannon it was still raining. Damnit, we’ll change to Rangiwahia. After sausage roll sustenance we continued on our way. And then, we turn towards the bright and glorious SUN. Where was the front? Oh right, the dark clouds over the Ruahines suggest it is still raining there. Hmmm. More driving, more sun. Hmmmm. Maybe the weather has now passed through? A further check of the metservice. No updates. Hmmmm. Oh well, let’s take our chances and see what the streams are like – we can always turn back…
Ready to begin.
The Iron Gate Hut is on the edge of the Ruahine Range. The track goes up the Oroua River and we accomplished the walk in about 3.5 hours. The initial climb to Alice Nash Memorial Hut is gradual and the track is wide but from here on the track narrows. The track undulates along at about 700m the whole way, but the climbs and descents into and out of the side creeks are steep (there are plenty of foot holes and branches/roots to grab onto).
We stopped at Alice Nash Memorial Heritage Lodge for lunch, timing it perfectly to avoid a serious hail storm – that was the last of the sunshine for the day. It was very tempting to hang out there for the rest of the day with the friendly hunters (and lots of dry firewood) but on we went.
There are two major water crossings: Cumberfield Creek and Tunupo Creek. Both connect to the Oroua River. We had rainfall on our walk yet the rivers were still fairly easy to cross. Cumberfield is ankle deep while Tunupo is thigh deep. After Tunupo there is a steep ascent to help warm your feet.
On terms of vegetation, the walk starts out with beech forest and then the track becomes very green with ferns, totara and rimu. Plenty of moss grows on the rocks and they can become quite slippery.
Getting good footing was the key challenge I would say in this track yet overall it’s fairly manageable. Not a lot of bird life was seen. At one stage I thought I saw a robin. But then again the wet weather would’ve prevented the birds coming out.
The hut is in a nice clearing, close to the river. You can hear the constant roar in the distance of a waterfall which is quite calming. Unfortunately a lack of dry wood meant getting the log burner going was a bit of a challenge. Notwithstanding that it is a lovely and cosy little hut. It has a pioneering feel to it with candles being used to light the room and the old burner.
We were in bed by 8, listening to the rain on the roof throughout the night. When morning broke, all was still. After some foraging to supplement the wet wood supply we were off.
There is an active stoat trapping programme up this valley, with traps set at what seemed like every 100m or so. The stoaties had been through the weekend before, but we did see one trap with a stoat in it. Good job!
Looking back up the valley from Alice Nash as we passed through there was plenty of snow on the hills all around us.
For post trip coffee in Feilding – we recommend Essence Café on Manchester St. Only $6 for a really good coffee and a piece of slice!