Sunday, January 9, 2011

Ruahine Summer Tour 2011

3 Jan. 2011 Parks Peak - late evening
Robb Kloss
John Nash
Pete McGregor

As I write this lying in my tent which is placed upon the lovely mountain meadow on which Parks Peak hut is located I feel content, relaxed, and relieved to be lying here. Pete has his bivvy bag located not far from me, and John is in the hut. I did not feel so content, relaxed, or relieved a few mere hours ago when climbing the ridge. It was a very hot summer day, very little wind, and very heavy packs. I would have thought my mountain foray last week would have held me in good stead, and expected it to do so. Alas, it did not. I struggled and plodded up the steep ridge, pausing for breath and rest, and it was not till just short of 8 hours from leaving the car that I staggered into this meadow.
It occurred to me that in this story I tell here of my love and travel in the mountains, I write most often from the hero's perspective. Travel is light and easy, the mountains speak and the rivers sing as I bound about. It is easy to forget the moments of doubt, or fear, or simply not wanting to climb or descend anymore, of running out of water on a hot day and feeling cramps coming on, or walking for years with a hip not fit for such activity. So today was a very honest day, a reminder that the mountains always hold the upper hand, a reminder of my real place here.
Yet upon arriving and getting into some fresh gear, being handed a cup of sweet tea, and then roaming out a few minutes to overlook the Makaroro valley and watch the colours of a Ruahine sunset with John and Pete. Those hard hours on the ridge seem like a long time ago.

John and Pete on Parks Peak ridge. A long series of climbs behind, a few more ahead. One of those days when I had to remind myself of the reasons I love these places, or perhaps it was the mountains reminding me.

My campsite, and Parks Peak hut with John on the porch behind. Pete was camped not far away.

Overlooking Makaroro valley and the main Ruahine range. Pete, a much finer and more astute photographer than myself, observing the play of light. ( Please visit his awesome photoblog Ruins of the Moment: , or Pohangina Pete: another great place to stop in. What a great spot to let the mountains wash over us after a hard days travel. Not a bad place for a wee dram as well!

A Miromiro (Tomtit) landed on a tawhairauriki right by us and began to sing. In the Maori world the Miromiro represents the light and life, as opposed to dark and death. After my day on the ridge seemingly facing the latter, having the representation of the former appear I took as a very good sign.

The sun begins to fade over the main range , Te Atua Mahuru, Ina Rocks, and Tupari. We took sly bets on how many minutes it would be till the sun sunk below the peaks. None of us won.

Another Ruahine masterpiece sunset painted just for us. How many have I seen in these mountains over the last 18 years? Never will I tire of such an honour.

4 Jan. Upper Makaroro
Upon arriving here mid morning from Parks Peak, John and I dumped our gear in the empty hut and headed down to the pool running through the flat in front of the hut. To be consumed by the bracing coolness and refreshing thrill of the mountain river, and wash the sweat, dirt, grime, and even thoughts of my performance yesterday, to cleanse myself, I felt renewed. I have been baptized in many Ruahine pools.
After many cups of tea, lunch, and a brief siesta, the three of us walked up river. In a very solid moment of connection I wanted to find a waterfall David and Tyson mentioned to me last week in the Maropea. David said it was 2 kilometres or so to the fall, but on a twisting, turning, beautiful wild mountain river how does one tell when a kilometre or so has past? At one point we stopped and agreed a few more bends and we would turn around. Within a few bends we heard a new sound to the river, an urgency and booming beat to the music lie not far ahead.
The fall was spectacular. Not in height, or even the power of it in very low flow like today. Rather, for me, it was the sheer wildness of it, the beauty of seeing her flow, how she completely stopped any forward progress upriver (at least as far as we could read). I dove into the pool in fairly short time. Not as deep a pool as I would have expected, though it falls through the very tight gorge with alacrity. One that makes you realize how privileged we are to be in such a place on a fine day. On an unpleasant one you would not have stood where we did.

A very quiet pool on the Makaroro.

Pete and John, crossing the river. To walk in the summer Ruahine river on a fine day, without pack, and when thirsty simply reach down, grab a few handfuls and feel the extra droplets drip down my chin. Aaaahhh.......

4 Jan. Upper Makaroro - continued

About 5 or 10 minutes up river from the hut we began to spot in the clear aqua pools rainbow trout, their golden and red flashing hidden perfectly in the clear water and the golden red beech leaves on the bottom of the pools. About 20-30 minutes upriver, a whio just blasted out of the the greywacke ahead of us and jetted off up river. It happened so fast I could not get the words out, Pete was focused on something else, but John saw the whio take flight. Of which I was glad or I would not have been sure if it had actually happened. It did. We were with the whio, the Heart and Soul of the Ruahine. Even for the briefest of moments that makes me smile.

This pool was most likely 10-15 feet deep, the deepest on the quiet river, high up the head waters on a very quiet day. Up above it, where I enjoyed this moment, it looked up to my ankles. Notice the tawhairauriki leaves gathering on the bottom. The trout roam there.

Even at the times of quietest flow the watersheds of the Ruahine still are at work. We saw streams running into the river now dry, but then you come across places like this, still releasing some of the countless billions of gallons held in store, the natural surge tanks which must not be altered. When we destroy the tiny trickle above, we destroy ourselves.

The Waterfall. Such a place. The clear cool water, the roar of the river, the looking around and knowing this tight spot would not be nearly as pleasant on a bad day, or times of higher flow. It was wild.

A dip in the pool.

There was no way up from here, or just down below, as far as I could see. Pete and John debated hand and foot holds on the sheer smooth slippery rock. I had my doubts. The consensus seemed to be that it would require rope work and such. All I could think is never forget your party is only as strong as the weakest link. I was happy to swim in the bracing pool. Climbing it was another story.

5 Jan. 2011 Morning Upper Makaroro

John clears the overgrown path to the river, access for drinking water and doing dishes. He is down there with the hut axe and my saw doing hard yards. He is like that. I have no doubt any hut rubbish left previously will end up in his pack. It always ends up just as heavy, or heavier, than when we started. I love that about John.
We have decided to head down river to Barlow, a walk I will be doing now for the third time, but not since 2004 or so with Taylor and Jake, then myself. The river is low but it falls fairly fast from here, so is never "easy".
I could not stop smiling after yesterday seeing the whio on that walk up river. With like minded and gentle souls. I have never learned so much about the insects and birds of the Ruahine as now with Pete. And John who taught me so much early on about observation of the lie of the land, reading a map and compass. We traveled lots of places in the mountains on his expertise. I am lucky to have made such friends.
We sat down by the river before dinner last evening waiting to see if a whio might grace us with its presence. And we sat upon a huge old beech river log brought down by some ancient flood and left. So smooth it seems to be sanded and varnished. I seek it every time I am here.

Pete looking for a route through this narrow pool, John pretty much accepting a deep wade is ahead. It was. Chest deep at least, bracing and cool. On a higher flow day this river would present more problems.

John headed into another pool than from above. The only way through.

Pete making his way through as well.

Lunchtime on the Makaroro. A cup of tea on the sun drenched greywacke along the river. I fell on the river and sprained my ankle. Didn't quite realize the peril of that till it stiffened up at this point. I had a couple real top shelf mates to stir me through. I had a long couple hours ahead.

The river.

5 Jan. Late Afternoon Barlow hut - Makaroro river
I sit outside the hut while Pete and John have a short siesta. I couldn't sleep as my ankle hurts and has swollen up. It is going to be a long slow walk out of here in the morning. Another reminder of the wildness of these places, and the potential risk and danger we face when amongst them. I accept that and wouldn't have it any other way. This was such a beautiful day to be upon the mountain river. Traveling through darkened gorges and fast water with big boulders into calm clear straights where the sunlight hits the water making it sparkle and glimmer, and the sun warmed greywacke rocks seem to glow against the aqua pools. How can I not smile? Hard to write this trip is almost done. I wish we had arranged a few more days now. I am enjoying the place and the company very much.

Robb and Pete.

Robb and John.

* my ankle was very swollen, stiff, and sore. We wrapped it up and I hobbled off well ahead of John and Pete. The river eventually becomes a very wide and braided bed, much easier, if not a bit tedious, to walk down, and in about 4 hours I was at the car. Not too far a drive from there to the Onga Onga pub for a couple very cold beers. Kia ora John, Kia ora Pete, Kia ora Ruahine!


Anne-Marie said...

Kia ora Robb. I'm glad you three had such a wonderful trip. I love your photos - those river pools look so tempting! The weather has certainly been at its summer best for such activities. While you've been tramping around in the Ruahine I've been swimming & surfing in the Tasman Sea. It's a fantastic time of year, isn't it?

Dave said...

Sounds like an epic ramble! Thanks for sharing all this -- been looking forward to it since I saw the photos on Pete's blog.

Bob McKerrow said...

Kia Ora mate. Good to see Pohangina Peter out in the hills with you. Sometimes it is invigourating to go solo, other times the cameraderie of being with other is joyful.

For me it was a weekend with the boys in the surf, studying mangrove forests and saw two crocodiles and many kingfishers.

sarah said...

i love that i get to re-visit the ruahines so soon through your eyes and feet! your poor ankle, exactly what i was sincerely hoping to avoid with a combined 8 hours of river bashing to and from the maropea. the mountains are treacherous, i like how they make a point of reminding us who really is in charge. it truly is the way things should be.

does onga onga happen to have accommodation, do you know? the closest i could find (apart from the school site nearby) was in waipukarau, which is a cool town.

heal soon!


Ruahines said...

Kia ora Anne-Marie,
One of the beauties of Aotearoa is the plethora of places and the catering to our tastes in nature available. Mountains, bush, forests, rivers, lakes, the sea. One of my favourite days in NZ ever was taking Tara on a climb into the Ruahine and then walking back down driving to the coast and spending the evening and next day by the sea.
We have had a wonderful run of weather, and on the latest trip I carried far too many extra clothes, but then you just never know :)
It was fantastic to finally get into the Ruahine with Pete. And John is a pretty special friend as well, so it was a very cool trip.
Enjoy the rest of the summer my friend! Hope to catch up sometime. Peaceful and Healthy New Year tidings.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Dave,
That was a very alluring photo Pete observed of John and I in the river. I was quite stunned by the clarity of the moment. It was really enjoyable to be in the Ruahine with him 10 years or more after first meeting him in the Ruahine for a brief interlude, and another 7 before discovering his blog, writings and photos and then meeting again. It is good to find the virtual world holds very true to the natural one, or at least has held true to my own dealings with all the people I have met via this medium.
Glad to read you enjoyed this post Dave. I wasn't quite sure it got what I felt, perhaps I just did not let it ripen inside long enough. But with a trip in the morning with my youngest son back to the mountains, then work and a very busy period ahead over the next few months, I wanted to share it while I could. It has been a great holiday. Rave on Dave.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Bob,
Your name came up a few times :)

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Sarah,
Going to re-visit in a matter of minutes. About to wake up Charlie and head back to the Ruahine.
Indeed the mountains always have the final word e hoa.
Not sure about Onga onga accomodation. I shall ask the publican saturday when I pull in for a cold one :)
Have a great weekend.

pohanginapete said...

I loved that trip, Robb — one of the best I've had for a long time. Thanks so much for arranging it, and I'm glad the ankle's ok.

Just posted another photo...

Kiwi Nomad 2008 said...

Robb, You paint such a wonderful picture of your time in the Ruahines. Your trip may have had hard times, but what great joy you had with seeing the whio and finding that waterfall. And all with good friends.
Once I was in the northern Ruahines and saw whio playing in the waters of a rushing stream by the hut as evening fell. It is a memory I have treasured forever.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Pete,
It was a distinct pleasure and honour to share some mountain time with you. Things hold true.
John is quite keen on discovering the Ruahine portion of the Pohangina valley on our next trip, so let us keep that in mind. I reckon he would love both Kingvig and Ngamoko. And those tops up there (on a fine day) are pretty tempting as well.
Pete, kia ora e hoa, every journey into the Ruahine enters my soul. See you for a dinner soon! Tara needs some more stimulating conversation than I can provide :)

Ruahines said...

Kia ora KM,
The moment you describe could be one you might close your eyes with for the final time (if you knew it was the final moment) and be happy with. I am very pleased to read it is one you remember vividly.
I have a few of those myself about the Ruahine and gained a few more with my younger son over the past 3 days.
To be in the mountains with truly special people just adds to the lustre of so many moments.
Kia ora KN - may Nature fill the New Year and make you smile.

Marja said...

Kia ora and happy New year Robb. What a magical story about you and your friends and lovely pictures.
You can't but get affected by your love of the mountains and your adventures. I love that waterfall you found.It must be indeed difficult to climb up there and also to move through the river.
I fell in a river myself because the stones were so slippery but I was only wet. I hope you recover soon and it must not have been easy to walk such a long time with a swollen ankle.
I had lots of walks in paradise as well but mine where all very very short compared to yours. Also because I wasn't used to the very humid hot weather we had in the North Island.
I hope 2011 brings you many more beatiful walks in the mountains
Arohanui marja

troutbirder said...

Oh my what a wonderful hike Robb. I'm so glad I could come along even if only vicariously. And the small but "trouty waters." Sighs...

KB said...

It is very hard for me to imagine how the Ruahine feels except that your words describe it so lyrically. It is so different from the harsh alpine world and forests full of predators that I'm used to. It looks lush, green, and shady. And, the river... the river is both dark and foreboding as well as refreshing and life-giving.

Embrace your summer, and keep exploring the Ruahine! I'm glad that your ankle carried you home when you needed it to.

Aren't you glad that we're talking about your ankle rather than your hip?

Kia Kaha.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora Marja,
I reckon any walk in Nature, short or long is a good one :)
Yes, it has been hot and humid, and I am a better tramper in the cooler colder conditions as I sweat profusely and require lots of water - which means more weight in the pack unless on a river. I love river walking, it really is a matter of finding the flow of the river, telling you where to cross, where to climb over. On beautiful days like we had it is simply magic. I just stepped on the wrong rock and it gave way. I was more concerned after falling about my hip and did not really even realize I had badly twisted my ankle until later.
Glad you had a great holiday with your brother and got up here to he north island. Truly a lovely land we live in e hoa. Look forward to another year of friendship. Kia kaha.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora TB,
I greatly enjoyed your recent series on the Boundary Waters. That is such a special wilderness area for me as well.
It is pretty amazing to see the trout, some pools with several, and watch them. A couple we spooked and they took off like missles through the shallows, scampering over the shingle and rock into deeper water. Just lovely.

Ruahines said...

Kia ora KB,
One evening Pete, John and I sat down by the river and we discussed that very thing, how back in the states when I hiked or canoed there was always something we had to be aware of that might kill us, black bears, grizzly bears,snakes, wolves, coyotes, ect. A quote (from possibly Abbey) I recall is that if there is nothing that can eat you around it isn't real wilderness.
However, after living here for nearly 20 years, and knowing the Ruahine as well as I do, the wildness here is in the land itself. It is the land which looms over us, completely neutral to our presence, but in its narrow structure surrounded by open seas, it volatile nature of earthquakes and volcano's, the placid rivers and streams which in moments can become angry torrents, the severe drops and climbs which in a moment of being unfocused can kill you, or the open tops which can suddenly disappear in mist, cloud, or be ridden by gale force winds which have you fighting for your life. It is the land itself which is the most wild here.
My ankle came right enough for me to head back into the Ruahine with Charlie for 3 days last week, but is sore now after we had a battle with the wind ourselves, and virtually dragging him along a narrow sheer ridge I twisted it again! But yes, how nice to focus on pain someplace other than my hip :)
Kia kaha KB! Stay Tuned.