Limited access to the East Taupo Lands Block in the Kaimanawas

It’s great to see in the March 2014 (#195) Federated Mountain Clubs Bulletin that FMC has managed to negotiate some limited access, at least for FMC affiliates, to the East Taupo Lands Block that’s located in the middle of the Kaimanawa Range.

Some years ago, I wrote about some frustrations with the property line divisions in the Kaimanawas. For the uninitiated, the range has a size-able block of private land cut out of the middle of it, which effectively divides the east of the park from the west. I appreciate that the private land and how it’s operated is a consequence of more complex issues, but the straight-line boundaries between that and the Kaimanawa Forest Park which surrounds it are a combination of straight-edged squares and triangles that pay little attention to the mountainous geography. They create a buffer zone of public land in some places where it;s less practical than it could otherwise be to access that public land without crossing borders of private land.

For example, as can be seen on the Walking Access Mapping System, there’s ridge south of Waipakihi Hut, which looks as if it could be very nice to explore towards spot-height .1660, but the route is blocked by the metaphoric brick wall of a 200 metre stretch of private land. It exists thanks to the lazily plotted corner of a triangle that happens to just reach over the top of that ridge.

Waipakihi Hut, backgrounded by its border with the East Taupo Land Block.

At the time I wrote my earlier rant, Air Charter Taupo was then leasing the block of land to use for premium hunting and fishing access. On the side, the company allowed for a restricted system of permits for trampers to cross the block from one side of the park to the other, along a specific route, as long as a permit was paid for and as long as no overnight camping occurred. This access was unfortunately lost when Air Charter Taupo lost its lease in 2011. Once that happened, the East Taupo Lands Trust, which controls the land on behalf of its owners, decided not to retain the access permit system for trampers and instead focus solely on the premium hunting and fishing.

The latest news, however, is that Federated Mountain Clubs has been negotiating with Helisika (current leasee of the block) and has been able to arrange for its affiliated club members and individual supporters to have access.

Overall, this is an excellent outcome under the circumstances, and I appreciate the commitment from those involved in both FMC and Helisika.
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The Downs and Ups and Downs of Kime Hut

I’m unsure what to make of the latest happenings surrounding Kime Hut. This Saturday the TTC had been planning to host its own “opening ceremony” at the hut. If you haven’t heard, however, the TTC has been forced to abandon that ceremony because the hut is about to be locked. This comes nine months after the hut was all-but-completed, and nine months after people began using it unofficially, but the hut was never officially opened.

Kime Hut III, in October 2013.

The reason? Kime Hut 3 hasn’t yet obtained its Building Certificate from the Kapiti Coast District Council. DOC has finally decided that it can’t legally allow people to use the hut until the Building Certificate has been issued, to the extent of needing to lock the door to keep people out.

Kime Hut is one of the more important huts in the Tararuas, both historically and also for its function. Since the hut’s inception it’s been used as an ad-hoc ski lodge, a stop-over point for many people walking the Southern Crossing and the Main Range, and also as a refrigerator. The exposure and cold of that region of the Tararuas means it’s not always the nicest place to spend a night, but on so many nights, and days, it’s far better to have a reliable hut with an inside that protects from chilling gale-force winds than it is to be stuck outside.

[Update 8-Mar-2014: After quite a big outcry, DOC has now said it will not lock the door of Kime Hut.]

More than a few people have also died in the vicinity through exposure to the elements, or come close to it. The most recent deaths occurred in the winter of 2009. Many more people have doubtless avoided a likely death by having the hut there as a refuge when plans went bad.
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Searching for accounts of attempts on the Schormann-Kaitoke (SK) traverse of the Tararuas

Very briefly, I’d like to help propagate a request from my local club (Tongue & Meats), who are looking for the stories of anyone who’s attempted an SK in the last few years.

The SK is named for Schormanns-Kaitoke, which represents a traverse between the northern and southern ends of the Tararuas. The Shormanns entrance is no longer accessible, so the normal northern point is now considered to be Putara Road.

In 1997, the Wellington Tramping and Mountaineering Club first published a collection of accounts of SK attempts. The latest of these collections is getting out of date, though, and it’s time for a new, sixth edition.

Several major variants for the SK exist, but the traditional route is via the Main Range. Going back to the early 1960s there’s been an ongoing challenge within tramping clubs and related communities to complete SK traverses within a weekend. The true believers set themselves a task of completing a full day of work on Friday, as per usual, before they’re allowed to leave to attempt it. :)
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On New Zealand Conservation Estate Fees for Tourists

It’s interesting to see that David Round, a member of the Aoraki Conservation Board, is calling for foreigners to be charged more than NZ Citizens and Residents for use of the Conservation Estate.

From that single article, it’s unclear to me exactly what’s being proposed by Mr Round. The Timaru Herald’s headline suggests charging foreigners more for hut fees. The base complaint is about “enormous non-payment” of hut fees, and of it being very hard to police. Inconsistent with the article’s title, the proposed solution seems to involve something about an “international access pass”, which would not be directly attributed to huts but would be required to “enter larger parts of the conservation estate”.

Charging higher amounts for tourists is a topic which comes up recurringly, but so far has not gained any traction. There are a variety of relevant factors, both to do with practicality and law.

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Trip: Blackwater, Twin Peak, Butchers Creek, South Ohau

This weekend should be spent mostly in rivers, and it’s helpful that the upcoming forecast is actually accommodating. A very small amount of rain forecast from the east, some wind high up, but otherwise sunshine to burn. This is my first opportunity to get out since about October last year, and I’m looking forward to it.

Phillip, Fiona, Andy and Alistair ready to leave.

After a brief stop for dinner at Levin, we drop Harry and his guy at the bridge next to the Makaretu Stream. Starting tomorrow morning, those two intend to walk up the Makaretu before dropping into the East Waitewaewae and coming out Sunday evening at Otaki Forks. The rest of us continue to the end of Poads Road, where we meet another trampey club group (organised by Mike G) whose plan will be to walk half way up Gable End, and then follow an unofficial track direct from about .912 down to South Ohau Hut. Our own intention is to follow the Blackwater Stream up to its headwaters, hit the track at the top, then drop into Butchers Creek and the South Ohau. This evening, though, we’ll all walk in for about an hour towards a great ad-hoc campsite at Blackwater Junction.

Dates: 31st January – 2nd February, 2014.
Location: Tararua Forest Park, Poads Road.
People: Alistair, Fiona, Phillip, Andy and me.
Huts visited: South Ohau Hut (1 night).
Intended route: Poads Road to Blackwater Junction (Friday night), up Blackwater Stream and navigate up to point between Waiopehu (.1094) and Twin Peak (.1097). Across to Butcher Saddle, then down Butchers Creek into the South Ohau Hut for Saturday night. Out via Blackwater Junction to Poads Road on Sunday.
Actual route: Bailed out of Butchers Creek and straight up to near .810, then down Yeates Track.
Also see: Phillip also wrote a report for the WTMC newsletter.
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This post is a trip report. You can find other trip reports about other places linked from the Trip Reports Page, or by browsing the Trip Reports Category.

Farm land between Poads Road
and Tararua Forest Park.

The five of us get away before the others, walking from about 8.30pm. After a routine stroll, eventually by torch-light, we arrive at Blackwater Junction at about 9.40pm and are setting up flies in the trees just beyond the bridge over Blackwater Stream. Fiona takes the billy and a few water bottles slightly further, to fill them up from the South Ohau.s Some time before the other group wanders up and finds their own campsite. Andy’s on the other side of my tent fly. Phillip and Fiona have the another one, and Alistair’s just laying out his sleeping bag under the trees, not seeing a need for shelter this evening.

Blackwater Junction is a great place for camping, and there are heaps of great clear, flat places in the trees very close to the track which passes through.Unfortunately this doesn’t translate well to the quality of my sleep tonight. That Levin takeaway dinner hasn’t gone down well, and despite the flat-ness of most of these campsites, somehow I’ve found one where my mattress is on a sideways slope. Andy, who’s sharing the fly, seems to fare much better as long as I’m not waking him.

I might have risen with the bellbirds had I not already been awake. Alistair’s up not long after 6am on Saturday, strolls past the front of the fly (I say “hello” because I’ve been awake most of the night anyway), and gets started on boiling the billy. After lying for a while longer, trying to decide if it’s worth looking for any more sleep, I finally give up, unzip my sleeping bag, crawl out of the liner, rummage through my back to find breakfast, and go out to search for hot water. Andy’s doing the same.
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Daywalk: A Short Rimutaka Jaunt

This write-up will be far too long compared with the few hours that I spent on actually walking it, but whatever. :P With a spare day, I thought I might drive around to Catchpool Valley, where I haven’t been for some time. Several years ago and shortly before I’d left for Melbourne and since returned, I’d been thinking it’d be neat to get up Mt Matthews. I never got around to it at the time, and while there was also no way that would happen this day (for several reasons), I thought I could use my time to remind myself of what the Orongorongos are like.

The flooded Orongorongo River.

Weather was a factor, having already had a day or two of torrential rain. Several further heavy downpours, due to be heaviest up until about 1pm, caused me to look for excuses to delay leaving home. Nevertheless I couldn’t delay for long enough to arrive any later than about 11.30am, and it was then that I arrived at the Catchpool Valley parking area.

Dates: 5th January, 2014.
Location: Rimutaka Forest Park, Catchpool Valley.
People: Just me.
Huts visited: Turere Lodge (0 nights), plus misc other private huts.
Route: Up Butcher Track, along Cattle Ridge, then stomping around the Orongorongo a little. Big Bend track to Turere Lodge and back, then back to Catchpool carpark.
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My main goal was to head up Butcher Track and check out Cattle Ridge, which I’ve not really been to in the past. (If I have, I don’t remember it.) The only part of Cattle Ridge that I’ve previously traversed is the small section at the Orongorongo River end, where Browns Track climbs up one side, crosses the top, and drops down the other. The secondary part of my intentions was that I’d possibly stomp around the Orongorongo River for a look, expecting it to be in flood. The third part of my plan would be to return to the carpark, either via Mt McKerrow, or directly, depending on timing.

Being 11.30am, there was still quite a lot of rain and few people around. A couple of joggers hovered around the large carpark, but I didn’t see where they went. Wherever it was, they didn’t follow me.
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Changing Times

It’s silly season again, where holidays collide with pre-February weather. An annual bubble of SAR-related incidents has hit the news-wires in the past few weeks.

One story in particular first came out on January 2nd. It concerned a search for “five young trampers” in the Tararua Range who planned to walk to Penn Creek Hut via Table Top, then follow Penn Creek and the Otaki River back to Otaki Forks. They were reported overdue, and it was resolved quickly after Police sent a helicopter into the range, only to discover the group completely safe at Penn Creek Hut, drying out gear having turned around.

For some time now, especially since the old track which sidled above Penn Creek was washed out, the route has become notorious for parties becoming stuck and requiring rescue. This group had not required a rescue, but that information was not available and so a search operation was launched anyway.

Search officials use many factors to decide how likely it is that somebody might need help. There’s not enough reported context to fully explain why a search was launched when it was. My guess, however, is that a combination of “5 young people” plus “Penn Creek” plus “several waves of incoming torrential rain and certain flooding”, and very possibly some additional information, left doubts about the party’s ability to cope with circumstances on its own, and led to a conclusion of a reasonable chance that the group might be in trouble.

From the moment of that conclusion, the situation needs to be resolved as urgently as possible. If a helicopter had not found 5 relatively-happy people drying their gear in a hut, it might have been necessary to inject ground teams into some awkward parts of Penn Creek, and lift them out again, during a short window of time prior to likely floods.

The reports of this incident inspired an untypical amount of attention in social media. One of several examples is on Federated Mountain Club’s Facebook page. The main discussion, however, was neither about the details of the trip nor the actual search operation. The most common angle of interest has been on the comments from police afterwards.

Specifically, Police spokesperson Andy Brooke was quoted as saying “it is a timely reminder to take at least two forms of communication with you when venturing into the outdoors.”

The discussion has probably been prompted because this statement isn’t so much a recommendation to consider if taking communication is appropriate as a directive to take communication, on an implied assumption that the necessity of communication is now a foregone conclusion. The two particular forms of communication with Mr Brooke propsed were a PLB, and a Satellite Communication Device such as a SPOT or inReach.

It’s sparked some informal debate about at least two things: (1) Whether a PLB would have made a difference in this situation given that the party had no actual emergency, and (2) whether parties should be obliged to carry any communication at all.
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Daywalk: The Kapakapanui Triangle

Our intended Labour Weekend trip was sadly messed up when our intended 3.5 day excursion became a there-and-back-again trip, between Friday night and Saturday evening. This weather had been predicted to continue until Monday night, but fortunes changed. Rather than ignore the rest of the long weekend, we decided to spend Monday back in the Tararuas again. This time it was only Debbie, Craig and myself who were able to make it.

2013-10-28 13.49.44
Kapiti Island, seen west from the ridge near Kapakapanui.

This route is occasionally referred to as the Kapakapanui Triangle. It’s been the subject of a few search-and-rescue operations over the years. Apparently there’s something about triangles which causes people to become lost in them. In this case, some people seem to think that it relates to the loop’s accessibility for a wide range of people, which increases popularity amongst those who might not go tramping quite so much in other places.

My own theory, though, is that visitors become so distracted in awe with how the interior angles of any triangle always add to 180 degrees that they forget to watch where they’re going. Did you know that any triangle can be split into two right-angled triangles, no matter what type of triangle it is to begin with?

Dates: 28th October, 2013
Location: Tararua Forest Park, Ngatiawa Road.
People: Craig, Debbie and me.
Huts visited: Kapakapanui Hut (0 nights).
Route: Around the loop via Kapakapanui Hut, then Kapakapanui, and back to road.
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This post is a trip report. You can find other trip reports about other places linked from the Trip Reports Page, or by browsing the Trip Reports Category.

Well… the Kapakapanui Triangle is not really a triangle if you look at its shape critically on a map. It’s more like some kind of imperfectly formed trapezoid. The Kapakapanui Imperfectly Formed Trapezoid doesn’t roll off the tongue so nicely, though, and nor would it be a name to reliably explain why people become lost in it… unlike The Kapakapanui Triangle.
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Trip: Up Hector. Down Hector.

Labour weekend of 2013 is meant to be a three and a half day treat from Otaki Forks, up to Hector and around a loop involving Neill-Winchcombe, Maungahuka and the Tararua Peaks. The weather forecast doesn’t look that great. Some rain, but more significantly there’s strong alpine wind predicted at speeds of between 70 and 110 km/hour as the weekend progresses, potentially getting worse. No doubt Tararua tramping at its best. Uhh, yeah…. We may need a backup plan.

Craig climbing Field Peak.

Dates: 25th – 26th October, 2013
Location: Tararua Forest Park, Otaki Forks.
People: Craig, Debbie, WeiMin and me.
Huts visited: Field Hut (1 night), Kime Hut (0 nights), Parawai Lodge (0 nights).
Intended route: (From Friday to Monday) Otaki Forks up to Hector (Field Hut on Friday night), then Winchcombe, Neill, and navigate down spur direct to Neill Forks Hut for Saturday night. Up past Maungahuka, Tararua Peaks and back to Kime for Sunday night. Return to Otaki Forks on Monday.
Alternate route: Continue beyond Hector to Aston, then to Elder Biv for Saturday night. Past Renata and Maymorn Junction on Sunday, then up to Kapakapanui for Sunday night. Follow ridge along and past Pukeatua (.812) on Monday, back to Otaki Forks via Fenceline.
Actual route: Up Hector (almost). Down Hector.
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This post is a trip report. You can find other trip reports about other places linked from the Trip Reports Page, or by browsing the Trip Reports Category.

All four of us convene at platform 9, after work on Friday night, and we’re away soon after. There’s already some dissent about the planned meal for tomorrow night. Debbie doesn’t much like the taste of kumura and WeiMin just doesn’t want to carry four of them. During our Waikanae dinner stop, WeiMin rushes away to New World and buys a 500 gram packet of rice. That’ll be enough to replace about half of the former ingredients.

I think WeiMin’s brought his own dinner from home. Debbie, Craig and I wander back to one of the fish and chip shops—the one that’s furthest away from where we parked, but which also has the most customers. It’s been a while since I’ve had fish and chips, but going tramping is a good excuse to pig out. Besides, we have to climb up 700 vertical metres before sleeping tonight.
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The tragedy over the long weekend

People who read this may have heard about the climbing tragedy up Mount Taranaki over the weekend, within Egmont National Park. I’ve wandered around the park a few times, and I walked to the top of the mountain in late 2010 (via the most direct and easiest route). I guess this accident feels closer to home for me than some others, despite me not being an alpine climber.

So far, this article is the most down-to-earth media collation I can find of what is and isn’t known.

I’ve checked my photos from my own most-recent visit. The following two photos respectively show the area near the top of The Lizard, standing with the camera at 2435 metres, but on a nicer day. The Lizard veers around to the right (in the second photo) below this rocky spine. The two climbers reportedly chose to dig themselves into the ice, located at about 2400 metres, slightly below where these photos were taken, having climbed the East Ridge and come down from the summit. On a topo map, that would have placed them about here, give or take.

Looking up.

Looking down.

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