With a day to spare in Wellington, I had a thought of attempting to find Snowy Hut in the Tararuas, which I’d be keen to see some day simply through virtue of it not officially existing. To do so would involve some river travel, though, and with a forecast that would allow little if any room for error or mistake, lest becoming totally screwed by a severe storm due to come in by evening, I reluctantly decided it’d be a bad idea. This led to plan B, which was a jaunt up to Mount Reeves, which is mostly under trees, involves no rivers, and should be easy enough to retreat from if the storm came in early. I’ve never been up Reeves Track before. (Maybe there’s a reason.)
Thus on Friday morning, I drove to the end of Waiohine Valley Road, behind Greytown and near Woodside Railway Station, and parked next to a herd of unrestful cattle. So far, so good. No sign of stormy weather, and a little sunshine.
Date: 2nd March, 2012
Location: Tararua Forest Park, Waiohine Valley Road.
People: Just me.
Huts visited: None.
Route: From Waiohine Road, up the Mt Reeves Track past Rocky Knob to Mt Reeves, then back again.
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Soon after sorting my tramping outfit, shortly after 10am, the local farmer drove up on a 4 wheel motorbike. It turned out he was about to move the moo moos to a new paddock. He reckoned where I’d parked the car was fine, but I soon found myself being closely followed up the farm track. There would’ve been a few nice scenic photos of the Waiohine River down below, if I hadn’t been stumbling with camera batteries.
Some way up the hill, a DoC sign directs Tararua Forest Park visitors into one of the paddocks. This involves a limbo underneath one of the electric fences, although there’s a good amount of space. I’m unsure if it was switched on, but I think it’s prudent to assume they always are. Then it’s a steep climb for a few hundred metres to the back of the field, another limbo under another fence, and into a steep, slippery muddy pine forest which initiates Reeves Track. By now it was about 10.30am. On this day at least, it was clear that people had recently slipped and slid all over it, and finding good foot-holds was a challenge. Very do-able, though.
I began the day mildly concerned that at the speed I was going, it’d take a very long time to get anywhere. There was one small cluster of onga onga (stinging nettle) in this area, which I managed to avoid, and after some awkward under-pine sidling in a still-slippery and ineffectively benched track, things gradually morphed to a more traditional leaf-covered Tararua tree-root track after about 5 minutes of struggling.
The track towards Rocky Knob and then to Reeves is divided into many discrete lines of different bearings and a few hundred metres each. I think it was a fantastic track for practicing locating myself with a bearing tangent. In most cases, I could very easily verify where I was by taking a bearing of the current direction and comparing it with the track shown on my topo map. Usually I find this trick harder to apply without close attention, simply because so many tracks tend to follow a line for a long time or have many sections that follow similar bearings.
The upward-ness of the 750 metre vertical climb to Reeves is very pronounced. It rarely stops climbing. I reached spot-height 569 at about 11.10am, which provided the first unobscured views over the range north-wards towards Waiohine Peak in the distance, and several un-named peaks that are much closer. I was studying the map on the way to Rocky Knob, thinking that there could actually be a nice navigation loop heading south off that point down to a saddle and up to spot-height 568. Chances are, being in the Tararuas, there would already be a ground trail for something so obvious.
Sure enough, when I arrived at Rocky Knob (not very rocky and not much of a knob), I nearly walked straight down that trail. It was fairly clear after a few metres that I’d missed the main route (easy to find behind me). The south-ward spur is marked further into the trees with a splodge of blue paint, and it looks as if there are some old axe blazes from many years in the past. Typical Tararuas.
Climbing further past Rocky Knob, now heading north-north-west, the track flattens briefly and the trees open into surroundings of dracophyllum, affording scenes of Reeves not too far away, and other surrounding hills in the range.
Back into the trees, and just below spot-height 745 where I arrived about 12pm, an old DoC sign warns that a 3 wire bridge over Coal Stream has been removed. There were a lot of markers here, and another ground trail aiming towards the top of 745. I’m guessing it’s a fairly well known route to head north-east along the spur from that point, cross Coal Stream, and then cross the giant swing bridge over the Waiohine back to Walls Whare—I guess it could be a more direct way back to Walls Whare from somewhere like Tutuwai Hut. That’s not something I’d planned to do this day, though.
Soon after, and with further climbing, the track continues into more open dracophyllum until finally, 45 minutes later, I reached Reeves itself. It’d taken about 2.5 hours to reach here from the car, although it’s a steep climb all the way I think I’m fairly fast compared with some people, particularly when I’m on my own.
Tararua views from Reeves a few hours before a storm.
I’d considered perhaps zipping down to Tutuwai Hut if I arrived early enough, but it’s a 600 metre drop and at my rate I’m guessing it’d probably add another 2.5 or 3 hours to the day to get there and back. I guess it would’ve been safe, but it could also risk cutting into darkness if something went wrong and with the forecast deluge it also didn’t really appeal. Therefore I pulled out my lunch and started munching, soon to return from where I’d come. Someone’s built a small fire pit on top of Reeves, with a nearby log on which to sit, and I took in the surrounding scenes, dominated by the never-ending length of Marchant Ridge, Alpha Peak and the upper reaches of Quoin Ridge behind, and the Southern Crossing route curving around towads something (possibly Hector) hiding in the clouds in the distance. I can certainly appreciate why some people might prefer to end the Southern Crossing via Reeves Track, even if it’s a bit of a climb.
I left soon after 1pm, still without much sign of a storm coming in off the western coast. The scenery in this direction is decidedly different, looking over the flat, wide Wairarapa, dominated by the Waiohine River meandering through the flats before it’s drunk by the Ruamahanga, and by Lake Wairarapa in the distance.
I’d thought it might take about the same amount of time to get down as it did to get up, but it was at least slightly faster. After 40 minutes (1.40pm) I was back at the warning sign below spot-height 745. Following this, on the way down, I strayed a few metres to find the actual Rocky Knob, which I believe is the highest point in the middle of some trees, although it’s in a slightly different place from where LINZ marks it to be, by at least a few metres.
At 2.20pm, I was back at spot-height 569 and looking north’ish towards Waiohine Peak. Just prior to arriving at the pine forest, shortly before 3pm, I stopped as a Morepork flapped past, landed on a branch in front of me and decided to study me for several minutes. Then it must have decided I wasn’t terribly interesting. One awkward mud-stricken sidle later, I was at the top of the farm 5 minutes later, sliding underneath two electric fences.
Without the cattle chasing me around the farm track this time, I had a decent chance to look at the Waiohine River from the top of the bluffs which the track follows. It’s very nice. There was still just barely a sign of the weather starting to change by the time I reached the car at 3.25pm. It came in heavily overnight.
I think this day reminded me just how much I like hopping around New Zealand’s back-country, not that I needed much reminding. There are so many little things. I like the way the ground’s always a little bit damp, even when it’s dry. I like the way there are relatively un-touched waterways that aren’t dammed as reservoirs for economic prosperity so people can live in suburban grid streets built around shopping malls with doormat dogs and big shopping trolley cars, and I like that every fragment of land isn’t being managed to death, except for things like pest eradication.