Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Ruahine Tramping Club

The Ruahine Tramping Club was established in the year 2000, by Nigel Robson and myself, as a way to mark participation in, and accomplishment of, a crossing of the Ruahine ranges. The idea originally came to Nigel as he tramped over the Mokai Patea to meet Gustav Risberg and Robb Kloss who were completing the first multiple day crossing amongst the future club members. Meeting high on the Mokai and relishing a few still cold Mac's lagers carried up by Robson, the idea was put forth as a way for like minded people to enjoy the ranges and each others company, and heartily agreed upon as a fine concept. The badge pictured, kindly provided by Nigel, is an actual World War One regimental badge of the now defunct Ruahine Regiment, which we managed to procure a number of from an Auckland trader. Somehow I think the spirits of those now gone men would not disapprove of our use of them.
The original members, in addition to the above mentioned, were John Nash, Gustav Risberg, and Taylor Kloss, whom at age 7 had ramped up a large number of tough trips so as to be included in our ranks as a mark of respect.
Members Kloss and Robson had initially crossed the ranges in the south at Maharahara, a tough one day affair of around 8 hours through the Leatherwood belt. We did this twice in the early days, whetting our appetites for further exploration. The first overnight crossing involved Robson and Kloss climbing over the eastern Rauhines to Leon Kingvig hut, then out via the Ngamoko's and Knight's track, a real learning curve, but a great experience in 1998. The first multiday crossing was done in 2000 by Kloss and Risberg, going up Sunrise track, across Armstrong Saddle to Top Maropea, downriver to Maropea Forks, then over Puketaramea to Otukota hut, and out the other side via the Mokai Patea. The sight of Nigel emerging out of the Mokai mist to meet Gustav and I is something we will not forget. Soon after Kloss, Robson, and Nash went the same way to Maropea Forks, then veered off another ridge to Unknown Campsite and Lake Colenso, then out via Iron Bark hut and the Mokai. The year 2001 saw the addition of two members to our ranks in Rick Parduhn and Steve Davidson, visitors from America. On a wet and wild crossing they joined Kloss on the now familar route to Maropea Forks, then veered off over another ridge to Wakelings hut, then climbing high again to Rongotea and dropping down to Crow hut, before climbing out on the Hikurangi range and Kawhatau base. Their badges were well earned. A few years later Nigel returned from South Korea with his new bride, Young Hae, and along with John Nash, repeated the Lake Colenso crossing, making Young Hae the first female member of the RTC tribe. So the number of members currently stands at 8, and includes Americans, New Zealanders, and Koreans, true international flavour. And while we have no annual dues, no agenda, no meetings, and no rules, we do encourage members to stay in touch and renew their connection to this wild and wonderful place.

Saturday, September 29, 2007


The Ruahine Ranges lie in the North Island, part of the "spine" of mountain ranges running from the high and majestic Southern Alps through the lower North Island Tararua's, and the Kawekas north of the Ruahines. Seperated only by the Manawatu river in the south, and the Taruarau river in the north this spine of mountains was at one time the original land mass poking above the sea, with the volcanic Rim of Fire creating the even now erupting Ruapehu, Tongariro, and Ngarahoe, Taranaki having been banished to the south by an angry Maori god. Geologically young, having emerged during the Pleistocene period to their full current height two million to ten thousand years ago and still rising "rapidly" at up to 5 millimeters per year.
They are a relatively narrow range of mountains 25 kilometers acroos at its widest point by 90 killometers long and made up of 5 seperate ranges of mountains, the main Ruahine range and the subsidary Mokai Patea, Hikurangi, Whanahuia, and Ngamoko ranges. The highest point is in the Hikirangi's, at Mangaweka 1733 meters. Within the Ruahines lies a diverse natural wilderness with mountain tussock rolling tops, craggy peaks, alpine tarns and flowers, high ridge beech forests, lowland rain forests, deep and hidden gorges, waterfalls, and crystal clear mountain rivers, a steep and rugged place to wander about..
The tangata whenua, or Maori, have a special and influential relationship with the ranges. The ridges, streams, rivers, and peaks all have Maori names given to them, some which relate to the traditional homeland Hawaiiki, others which relate to past incidents or physical features.
A number of tribes have long associations with the Ruahines. The hapu, or sub tribes, of Ngati Kahunguru, Rangitane, Ngati Apa, and Ngau Tahu lived on the plains and foothills surrounding the ranges. While not living permanently within the ranges they were instead a place of refuge during times of war, and more importantly, a place of mahingi kai, or food. The forests and rivers provided berries, birds, fish and kiore, the Polynesian rat. Lake Colenso, pictured in this blog, provided Kokopunui, or native trout.
While the "first" crossing of the ranges is credited to William Colenso, a Hawkes Bay missionary, in 1848, it must be noted he was guided by Maori and traveled along a series of rough routes, clearly indicating the Maori had crossed the ranges prior to that time.
I will include more historical information as I progress, but thus ends our lesson. Sorry for the relatively boring text, but is essential to the journey.


Since moving to Aotearoa, or New Zealand, some 14 plus years ago, the Ruahine Ranges, located in the central North Island, have become my own Turangawaewae, or home base, literally meaning in the lovely Maori language, "a place to put one's feet". And I have, since 1993, placed my feet there many times. Never having had experiences with mountains in my native Wisconsin, simply due to geological realities, I felt a very strong pull from somewhere inside myself from my first trip in the northern Ruahines to Gold Crown ridge. I have been coming to terms with that connection ever since and have never tired or am tiring of interacting with the mountains to renew that awareness. I suspect I will continue to rendezvous with the Ruahines until physically unable to do so. I appreciate each trip there as potentially the last, as the country is steep and rugged, the rivers clear and fast and quickly capable of turning into muddy torrents, so travel is never clear cut and easy.
So I want to use this forum to continue to write of my experiences within that environment, to share with those whom have traveled there with me, and those whom have not, so they might understand and even enjoy why I do. And most of all, if not somewhat selfishly, for myself, to continue to grow as a man, a father, a husband, a friend, through understanding myself and a very real spiritual connection to a place half way around the world from my original Turangawaewae.