Punter gets Lift Off in the Ruahines

Photo: Vlad Dvennik
Photo: Vlad Dvennik

The Route:

Mangakukeke Road End to Purity Hut then on to the tops of Wooden Peg and Iron Peg, across and down the ridge heading south east past Pinnacle Creek to Pourangaki Hut. Sunday was down the Pourangaki River to Kelly Knight but then along the trail back to the
Mangakukeke Road End.

The Stats:

  • Highest Point – Iron Peg 1703m
  • Saturday’s hours – 8.5
  • Sunday’s Hours – 6
  • Metres of Climbing – Saturday 1000m, Sunday a few ups and downs
  • Huts Bagged – 3
  • Leader – Gareth Morton
  • Punters – Steve A, Jo P, Rita Q, Vlad D, John H and Kate C (aka MJ)

The Story:

The trip was off to an illustrious start with a free stay in Kohonui Lodge (owned by the Landowner for the first part of the track) on Friday night. Now that’s how a road-end should always be! The day was looking a bit overcast for the tops and the forecast for wind appeared to be correct. We were undeterred and decided to stick to the plan to go across the tops.

Gareth dispatched with the bulls at the gate to get us all safely on our way. The track starts through private farmland which is well marked and then after only a brief warm-up heads straight up into the bush. OK- not straight up, but it felt that way for a couple of us punters. The track up to Purity Hut is quite steep but lovely through the bush. Purity Hut sits just above the bushline and would have a really nice view on a clear day- we were in the mist and wind already so we decided to have an early lunch there since stopping on the tops was going to be unpleasant.

Still undeterred by wind and clag we headed up to Wooden Peg and Iron Peg. The track is well marked with poles but in the mist there was some navigation required. There are also several signs for the huts on the ridge which was good for reassurance. We started to really feel the wind and some of the punters were seen clinging to the hill side bushes and scrambling on all fours below the ridges. There was one slip to cross but the scree was handled very nicely by all- except Steve who decided to use his climbing skills on the ridge.

We reached the turn-off for Waterfall Hut and regrouped for a decision whether we should go down into Pinnacle Creek and get out of the wind or continue across the ridge to Pourangaki. The punters weren’t too interested in the tough downhill to Waterfall (nor, let’s be honest, climbing back up Sunday morning) so the fateful decision to continue to Pourangaki was made.

Just after getting started again along the ridge a random gust of particularly vengeful wind took hold of a couple of punters. One of which held on nicely with a graceful tip over. The other punter however became airborne, flipped over a couple of times, landed on the scree and slid a wee way. Quite a scene from eyewitness accounts. Luckily there was no injury besides some scratches, bruises and frayed nerves. Gareth made a daring rescue and the crawl across the ridge resumed until a bit of outdoor First Aid could be safely administered. The clouds began to clear in the afternoon and there were some really amazing views of the Saw Tooth Ridge and the other surrounding peaks making the climbing and fighting the wind feel worthwhile.

The drop down to the Pourangaki River was quite steep and slippery for tired legs, so this portion of the day took a bit longer than expected. The First Aid Kit had to used yet again when another un-named punter had a fall and managed to incur a bleeding forehead and knees! At this point the trip leader was beginning to think he was cursed! Nearing the river there were exclamations of seeing the but which turned out to be false- must have been some sort of mirage because more than one person saw it. Hmmm… Anyway, after crossing the river via swing bridge there was yet another bunch of climbing (loom?) to reach Pourangaki Hut.
The but was very nice and is set in a beautiful location. Rain started shortly after we arrived making us wonder about the river levels. We settled in for a great Thai curry dinner and were to bed early after discussions about whether to take the track (800m climbing then i000m down) or the river to Kelly Knight Hut.

The rain stopped early in the evening and the day looked lovely when we got up Sunday, so the collective decision was to take the Pourangaki River route to Kelly Knight. This turned out to be a great decision with a lot of fun river walking and only a few spots of climbing around boulders. There were only a few places deeper than mid-thigh and the flow wasn’t enough to warrant linking up. We made good time in the sunshine to Kelly Knight and took the time there to have lunch, sun bathe and- for one punter who just hadn’t had enough water- a swim in the river.

We finished out the day on the well worn track from Kelly Knight Hut back to the road end, including a lovely walk through a wheat field and dodging racing motorbikes.

A great route and a great group. Taking flight off the ridge was just a bonus. Thanks for a fabulous weekend gang! Well done, Gareth!

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