With 2023 being a weather disrupted year it was time to brush the cobwebs off at the beginning of 2024. It had been months for some people since any overnight tramping. Seven trampers were dropped off at Ruamahanga car park and quickly reminded that an overnight trip means heavier packs. Having previously checked the area out last year we knew to head up a farm track uphill for 150 metres even though there were no track markings until further up the hill. We then had to head down the same distance to farmland terrace that finished by some private huts. The track then went through scrubby bush with remnants of four wheeler track. Eventually after a couple of hours from the road we came across the Tararua forest park boundary sign.
Our next obstacle was a narrow stream that appeared rather gnarly from above but in fact was not bad because of some well placed tree roots to hold onto. The tree roots often covered by foliage were however a nuisance on a lot of track where we had to concentrate hard where to place our feet, ( well that’s my excuse for taking our time.) When we came across a nice flat area we all had welcomed lunch stop and fluid replenishment on a very hot day After about 4.5 hours we reached the well marked Cleft Creek turn off.
The track then follows terraces above Cleft Creek until after half an hour it drops down into the creek opposite a side stream. The markers direct one up on the true right to the next side stream. from then, at the next side stream, there is a steady climb through the bush to cow saddle, a welcome sight when we arrived. It was confusing for me having last time taken a different and worse route shown on my 2006 Tararua map! (one advantage of updated Apps on phone)
It did not take long to descend the knee challenging track down to Cow Creek Hut arriving after 8 hours of tramping from the beginning. This was occupied by nice young couple who quickly evacuated and erected a tent. They probably could tell we looked like a a group of snorers. Not long after a another party of 4 Scottish travellers arrived with no tents. Some of our party slept under tents and tarps and we kindly offered the Scots our hiking mattresses for the floor while we slept on the hut mattresses.
The next morning Murray and Robin were the first up and last ready to leave. After crossing the bridge the track followed the side of Waingawa river beneath a slip and then a never ending 500 metre climb to the main ridge. A undulating track of further few hundred metres height brought us to the high point and then the turn off to Blue Range hut. by the time the stragglers arrived to the hut a welcome brew was waiting to enjoy lunch with. After climbing back up to the main track there was a steady descent down to Kriwhakapapa camp arriving mid afternoon.
Party: Colin J, Simon W, Nic W, Paula K, Jude H, Robyn W, Murry A