Parks Peak Hut – Ruahine Forest Park

15 August 2021

It was a 7.00 a.m. start from Havelock North. In two vehicles as there were 13 in the party. Our destination was the Mangleton Road to access Parks Peak Hut via Sentry Box Hill.  When we arrived at the entrance to the access to the track, we parked on the verge off the road. Eleven started their tramp here and 2 carried on for a kilometre to access Parks Peak Ridge via the old Kaumatua track.

Sentry Box Track

The climb started from the Mangleton Road Sentry Box entry by crossing a paddock that was divided by electric fencing then over a stile and into the Ruahine Forest Park. The route passes the historic Sentry Box Hut which is 10 minutes from the roadside. From Sentry Box Hut it is a 760 metre ascent to the junction with the Parks Peak – No Mans Hut track  which is gained in about 2 hours. D.O.C. describes the track to Parks Peak Hut as a long difficult climb.

The weather was kind to us although there was a chill in the wind; it was a fine day with good views of Hawke’s Bay. There was snow across the tops and the photos Des took of the red chair at about 10.30 has frost on the frame. The red chair is fifteen minutes from the junction off to the right of the track. As well as being a desired photo spot there are views across to the western Ruahine Ranges.

Nine of the party made it to the hut. Park Peak Hut at 1320m altitude is in a beech forest setting with picturesque alpine plants in front of it. The hut was originally built in 1960 by the NZ Forest Service and replaced by D.O.C. in 2008. The hut was named after Robert Park,  the first Surveyor General in the Hawke’s Bay.

We were back at the van and ready to leave Mangleton Road at 2.30.

Kaumatua Track

Since we were in our car we decided that we would try and find the old Kaumatua Track as no one would need to wait for us if we were late out .  We said goodbye to the others at their drop off spot and continued along the road to the legal access across farm land to the start of the Kaumatua Track.

There were cattle in the paddocks next to the bush and we were disappointed to see that the boundary gate was off it hinges and not fastened on either side. We tried to prop it up but there was nothing to attach the gate to the post on the hinge side. We followed the old 4WD track, heavily rutted with cattle hooves, until we reached the stream where we spied two more of the beasts foraging in our native forest. We skirted around them and found our first track marker, a red one at the end of the 4WD track.

Even though the map clearly indicated our track took off upstream of this marker (and did a zig and a zag before following the ridge up) Peter decided it looked easier from the downstream section.  He was wrong, finally 40 minutes later, after a lot of bush bashing, climbing up and along steep slopes, we came to our second marker of the day, a pink ribbon. A GPS reading showed that we had missed the zig and zag completely and were now on the ridge-line section.

It is a reasonably broad ridge-line and while we were able to follow markers in some sections (be they red, yellow, white permalate or pink ribbons)  in other sections they hid from us completely, even when we back tracked to the previous marker.  So there was quite a bit of bush bashing and some concern as to when we would reach the top. The worst bush bashing was through rather dense turpentine bushes.  

However, the bush on this ridge is much more varied than that on the Sentry Box spur with podocarps (mainly totara, rimu and miro), beech and pink pine ( a podocarp that looks a lot like Kaikawaka) emerging from an undergrowth of regenerating podocarp and beech trees,ferns, turpentine plants and more.

Eventually, at about 1:45 PM, we came to our first orange triangle and the main track to Parks Peak Hut.  As we knew the rest of the group would be long gone we didn’t take the detour to the hut, instead we headed north along the main track to the Sentry Box spur which we descended, reaching our car at about 3.30.  

Party: Murry A, Marie T, Graeme H, Nic W, Simon W, Jude H, Paula K, Vivian X, Susan L, Des S, Anne D, Glenda H & Peter B.

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