Sunday, October 7, 2007

Your Boots Never Do Quite Dry

One of the most memorable, though all my Ruahine tramps are memorable for one reason or other, was a trip with members Parduhn and Davidson, back in December of 2001. Not just for the fine company in a period where my mountain experience and skill was still being honed, but rather for the wild and wet weather we experienced for fifty six continuous hours. As we crossed Armstrong saddle on the way to Top Maropea it suddenly became very still and grey as a huge slow moving south easterly system engulfed the ranges. It started raining not long after we got to Top Maropea and literally did not stop for over 2 plus days late in the afternoon at Wakelings hut. In the interim we battled flooded rivers, wet and rain soaked forests which drenched us as we walked and climbed and descended through the murky mist. It was a true back country mountain trip done the hard way. Yet Steve and Rick both came through in good cheer and got a real adult portion of the Ruahines.
Above is a photo of the Maropea in flood on our way down from Top Maropea. It started out a bit discoloured when we got to it, and within an hour was the raging torrent above. Yet we were also too far down to turn back, and had a reasonable distance yet to go. So we kept moving very carefully down to Maropea Forks. Had we made the seemingly prudent decision to stop and wait, we would have been there for two days. Fortunately, having been down the river 3 times at that stage, 13 now, I felt I knew the river well enough to get us through. The Maropea is generally not a deep river, with only a few areas of deep pools and rapids, and so we made it down. Usually this stretch would be a quiet crystal clear mountain setting. Had I been with Taylor, or alone, and not known the river, I would not have attempted to traverse down to Maropea Forks.

Inside Maropea Forks hut, preparing a large and bountiful feast of Hopple Popple for the boys after gratefully arriving at the hut, wet, tired, cold, and very hungry. If I recall, this batch had 8 eggs, 4 large potatoes, onion, garlic, 6 rashers of bacon, and generous dollops of salt, pepper, thyme, a dash of chili, and cheese. We ate the lot, easily.
Steve and Robb on the spur between the Waikamaka and Maropea valleys. Sitting in the rain in a little hollow filled with ferns, a lovely place. Not typical of the up and down nature of the spur, and of course, the extremely steep drop to the Waikamaka river which awaits us.

Steve crossing the Waikamaka river, a bigger river in general than the Maropea, but still quite discolored as one can clearly see. The rain finally started to let up a bit that afternoon at Wakelings hut, where we fortified ourselves with a good fire, reading the writings of Mike Mc Gee in the hut book, and a few generous drams of Jameson's Irish whiskey.

Rick and Robb crossing the Kawhatau river, our third swollen river to be dealt with, and a huge climb out of Wakelings, over Rongotea, then down again to this river and Crow hut. We discovered two cans of Tui beer at the trig on top of Rongotea just as the sun appeared for the first time in over 3 days, so we drank them down and toasted the Ruahine Goddess. Only to have the clouds immediately roll back in with the wind and we got lost trying to find the route down to the river. It took us a fair while to sort ourselves out, but eventually Steve noticed a rudimentary track down through the tussock and the diabolical maze of razor sharp Spainards which got us back in the game. We are crossing the river at the confluence of the stream coming into the main river, then crossed the stream to a "wet weather" track just above the photo. Not that we couldn't get any wetter than we were anyway, but it leads to very long swing bridge high over the river, and on the other side, the beautiful sight of Crow hut.

RTC Members Kloss, Parduhn, and Davidson, at the finish line. Don't believe those times on the sign! Took us a bit longer than 3 hours from Crow hut over the Hikurangis. Tara met us near here with cold beers, a Ruahine Goddess in her own right!

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