Mangahao Valley to Ohau

1 2Friday night we made the long drive from Levin to the Mangahou road end. The evening was cold but very still at the tail end of the miserable southerly which had blown hard all week. Morning saw a cold and very light drizzle, we donned coats and warms and made haste round the lake, getting shelter as the track wound under the trees.

It’s been many years since I set foot in the Mangahou valley, and I’d forgotten how breathtakingly beautiful it is. Huge green pools, large beech stands and enough open flats with views of the towering mountains of the north western Tararuas to sate the senses.

We tramped steadily, stopping every hour to munch and chinwag and made the Mangahou hut in expected time for a very pleasant lunch. As lovely as Mangahou hut is, one can’t help noticing it is bounded by 3 rivers, making egress in bad weather almost impossible for all but the strongest party.

This day the drizzle was light and river crossings benign. We headed up the valley to the old avalanche flats hut site, crossing the river shortly after.

Although this was meant to be a navigational tramp and we came prepared with compass, map and GPS we found ourselves on a well-marked and maintained unofficial track, which took us to the top of deception spur which lies above the confluence of the north and south Ohau Rivers. Someone has clearly reopened and remarked the traditional route to Mount Dundas from the Ohau road end.

The day was beginning to fade (as was I, and perhaps one or two of the other punters), we marched double pace North West along the top to a well-marked decent down the spur to North Ohau hut which was unoccupied; we danced with glee and collected wood, piling the fire high.

The night fell with bitter cold outside but, fire roaring and brews a pouring, we paid no heed to arctic frosts outside. I slept soundly on the floor, stirring occasionally to the sweaty groans of the punter on top bunk as she cussed the firebugs who stoked the fire, drenching her mattress in furious sweat.

Morning brought clear blues skies and frost white, we dithered our departure till the sun came up. On with frozen socks and rigid boot; the day starts tough on winter tramps when you leave your boots outside.

The North Ohau was easy travel and we made the old Ohau hut side in time for lunch, before whistling out to the road end for a chilly couple of hours of stomping banter till the van turned up – a warm and welcome site.

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