Our tramp got off to an interesting start with Craig educating me in the week leading up to the tramp on what to do if I was ever chased by a bear since we had been talking about his Alaska trip. I was seriously hoping I would never have to put his advice into action. Although according to some entries in the Waiopehu Hut intentions book, there’s a pack of bears roaming the Tararuas chasing unassuming trampers up the hill and these bears have probably migrated to the Ruahines since!
On Friday night we all walked to Alice Nash Heritage Lodge. The DoC website had stated that there were two slips 10 minutes from the carpark which were very difficult to negotiate. After 20 minutes of walking we decided our MF group was either going very slowly or the slips had been cleared already and the website had not been updated since (it was the latter).
On Saturday we headed up to Tunupo. The snow was below bushline but wasn’t too deep, so luckily I couldn’t partake in my favourite past-time of continuously sinking knee-deep into snow. Once we got above bushline we all took turns at the tiring work of trail blazing.
As we approached the summit of Tunupo it was getting very windy and very cold in the exposed places. On the summit of Tunupo we had sleet peltering straight at us almost horizontally and visibility was very limited. It was here that common sense prevailed and we then made the decision to turn around because we were going to be spending the next few hours wandering along the tops directly into the sleet and fierce wind while making slow progress due to the snow. After snapping a photo on the summit as evidence of the peak we had just bagged, we headed back down to Alice Nash Heritage Lodge. On reaching the hut we were very fortunate that it was occupied by some hunters who had a much appreciated roaring fire going for us to defrost.
Dinner brought some challenges. Half-way through dinner the gas stove went out and we realised the gas canister was now empty. I had felt that this MF trip needed some additional challenges and had placed the new gas canister I had brought for the trip next to some half empty ones and had mistakenly picked up one of the half-empty ones.
Luckily, Craig had his little stove, but it was not really designed for such a big billy. However, a bit of skilled manipulation from Craig, Mike and Alastair did the trick. This was probably a good thing otherwise I probably would have been sent out to hunt for an alternative dinner.
The hunters we were sharing the hut with provided some interesting conversations covering everything from how wonderful Kathmandu was to 1080 poisoning which Craig very skilfully diverted. They also felt very sorry for Craig and Mike who had chosen to sleep out on the porch, despite my reassurances that they habitually slept on hut porches, regardless of the season. As it turned out Craig and Mike made a very wise decision because the hut ended up like a sauna during the night since one of the young hunters had only brought a emergency blanket to kip under so was keeping the fire roaring all night.
On Sunday morning we went for a wander down to the river to pass the time until the other two groups turned up. We thought the Medium trip would have not made it to Top Gorge hut due to the weather conditions and would have spent the night at Iron Gate, so we were expecting them back around midday. Sure enough right on schedule they turned up.
However, to maintain our reputation as a MF tramp we told all sorts of stories about our tramp; it ended up sounding like the four of us had all been on separate trips. Unfortunately the M and EM group didn’t quite buy our story that we were so efficient that we had done the entire loop around to Longview and Leon Kinvig and made it back in time to the hut for lunch. Some light-heartened ribbing ensued when they realised that they had both walked longer than us.