Mt Kuripapango and Kiwi Saddle Hut

23 November 2022

Eight of us departed Pukahu, heading along the Taihape Road, turning off at the Castle Rock Road to the Lakes Road car park, the wind intensity increasing as we neared our destination. 

Mt Kuripapango Tramp

We waited till the fast party went on their merry way, initially walking through Pan Pac’s pine forest, then into kanuka, gently winding our way uphill,  with young douglas fir sprouting up amongst the regenerating bush. No one was interested in diverting to the lookout over the Tutaekuri River, so continued on the track, through manuka, flax, hebes, senico, celmisia and a small patch of clementis. We stopped on various occasions to admire the headwaters of the Tutaekuri, across to Rogue ridge, Cooks Horn onour right, and through the gaps on our left, the twin Kaweka Lakes.

Everyone contributed some rocks to build up the rock cairns which are very useful when navigating through the pines, which unfortunately are spreading rapidly. Half the party found the track entrance to 4100 (rest wandered on to the track junction before retracing their steps) and the radio mast and as we came out of the scrubby bush were met by the full force of the wind! 

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A short respite here, looking down on a very swollen, discoloured Ngaruroro River and the Kuripapango Valley with Robson’s Lodge nestled against the macrocarpa trees.

We dropped down to the main track to eat our lunch out of the wind, then wandered along to the track junction before returning, pulling out wilding pine seedlings, rebuilding rock cairns, before retracing our steps back to the van. Lounged in the sunshine till the other three windblown souls arrived, looking a little weary.

Kiwi Saddle Hut tramp:

The three members wanted to attempt getting to the Kiwi Saddle Hut headed away before the rest needing to make the most of the time available if they were to get to the Kiwi Saddle Hut and back. Typically it takes a little over three hours each way.

The day was overcast with very strong westerly winds which became evident on the exposed tops of the Smith Russell track. At the track intersection on Kuripapango peak where the track heads down the Kuripapango car park, our group met a homeward bound hunter with his dog.

The hunter had been as far as Manson Hut. He had inReach® satellite communicator on his shoulder strap and at our prompting, briefly explained some of the features. Most important was its usefulness in keeping his wife informed.

Coming out into the open at the western end of the Smith Russell track, coats were needed to be worn to stay warm. Also one wouldn’t have been able to safely progress without a sturdy walking pole. Even with a walking pole we were being pushed off the track and fortunately away from the side of steep scree slopes.

Arriving at Kiwi Saddle Hut around midday, there were items which indicated other folk were in the vicinity and were staying at the hut. During our brief lunch break the other folk, father and adult son returned having seen deer and a pig but unable to get a shot in. Home for them was Paraparaumu and Norfolk Island.

A brief check of the long drop toilet indicated it was still fit for purpose having in recent months been relocated. The weather remained the same on the return to the Kaweka Lakes car park from the Kiwi Saddle Hut with the wind marginally helping us up the steep slope from the hut. Unfortunately Mt. Ruapehu could not be seen this time from the tops. Down in valley the Ngaruroro river was a dirty brown and in flood.

All arrived safely back at the Kaweka Lakes car park just before the agreed departure time.
Party:  Kiwi Saddle : Clint B, Anne C, Simon W, 4100 Party: Janice L, Stephen B, Anne D, Susan L and
Christine H.

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