28-29 AUGUST 2020
The six of us arrived at the Waipawa River carpark in my ute, experiencing much stronger winds than anticipated. We were headed for Waikamaka Hut and this was just the beginning! Up the river, not worrying about trying to keep dry feet and despite being August, most felt it was not too cold. Once out in the river bed after the Chalet track junction it was very windy, unsually so, because even if windy at the saddle it is not normally windy in the valley. But alas we were heading into it.
A couple of stops, the last as you enter the little bush spur track that leads up to the basin and saddle. All assembled just under the saddle to mentally prepare for the expected westerly blast..and it was… 106.7km/hr peak on my windmeter. Again, usually once you descend the western side you are mostly out of it! It was still nearly as strong as on the saddle. I decided to go via the ‘new’ route down into the gully to the left of the DoC route on the spur, due to the wind; combined with having two new people in the group; and with my knowledge of where we were heading. It is steep gully with sparse footholds and I pondered what was going through the heads of the two new people on the tramp… it looked like entering Hells Gate. The waterfall was mostly upside down as we went under it, and the last big rock step to negotiate was running with water..there was water and spray coming and going every which whataway! so I beckoned Kim to lead from the back up to the lower section on the DoC route. We assembled there still in probably 90k wind gusts, slowly and carefully descended to the safety of the ledge below.
Even from there on in the Waikamaka river it was still quite gusty and cool. Arriving at the hut was reward for the hardships. We soon settled in, firewood gathered and a fire going. Kim had taken in rat bait which was immediately needed to replenish the bait station, and I sprinkled granular weed killer I had taken in, around the hut margins to keep it clear and let the breezes through. We all got a meal prepared despite that one had a stove that wouldn’t light and another did not have a gas cylinder!
Away by eight next morning but in quite cold temperatures so we just kept moving. The Waikamaka had gone down a little from Saturday, not that it was difficult then though. Retracing our route of yesterday, now up into Hells Gate again but in more friendly conditions. Up to the Saddle where it was only blowing at 75km/hr! The plod down the Waipawa as you need to, to get out, was a tad more pleasant than yesterday. Times were taken precisely by Kim, 6hrs and 7 minutes in and 5 ½ hours out.
I must say congrats to Paula, she had not done much tramping and came on this trip as a first.. I called it a baptism of fire….she survived and thrived on the challenges. She can’t wait to get out again. Simon had likewise not done this trip either and did it with ease. Always good going into Waikamaka, it’s mostly an all rock bash now, the side tracks that were, have been eroded and/or overgrown with Tutu and Buddlea. Thanks to all for the great company and amusement. JM
Party : Kim M, Paula K, Simon W, Anne C, Murry A and John M