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Daywalk: Up Mount Reeves

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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.
[Photos [2]]
[Download GPX [3]] [LINZ Topographic Map in new window [4]]

This post is a trip report. You can find other trip reports about other places linked from the Trip Reports Page [5], or by browsing the Trip Reports Category [6].

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Leaving behind the farm.

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.

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No, they’re not growing on
a 45° angle to the horizon.

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.

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Looking off spot-height 569
towards the Waiohine Gorge.

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.

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Heaps of signage around
spot-height 745.

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.

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Tararua views from Reeves a few hours before a storm.

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Tararua Dracophyllum on Reeves a few hours before a storm.

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The fire pit and campsite.

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.

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Downhill Wairarapa views.

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.

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Various sights on the south-eastern
fringes of the Tararuas.

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.

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Chillin’ out in the soon-to-be-flooded Waiohine River Bed.
13 Comments (Open | Close)

13 Comments To "Daywalk: Up Mount Reeves"

#1 Comment By Amelia On 10 April, 2012 @ 10:24 am

Ugh, Mt Reeves.
I touched that electric fence the one time I came down there. I was so tired, cold and wet that I completely didn’t realise thats what it was! Not a happy camper that afternoon…

#2 Comment By Robb On 10 April, 2012 @ 10:42 am

Kia ora Mike,
Nice walk! I tend to get a little nervous about being in the hills during the roar, so day walks tend to suit me as well this time of year. You are indeed right it is good to be reminded that in Aotearoa we are blessed. Just a matter of getting out of the car and having a wander sometimes. Hope all is well.

#3 Comment By Mike McGavin On 12 April, 2012 @ 1:49 pm

Hi Amelia. Was that , [23] that you mentioned some time back? Yeah I can bet an electric shock would’ve just topped it off.

Thanks Robb. I know what you mean about the roar. I think that incident in the Aorangis with a chap reportedly getting shot by someone in a completely different party just demonstrates that it’s not always hunters shooting their mates.

#4 Comment By Thea Jenkins On 16 April, 2012 @ 7:47 am

Hi Mike,
Avidly read your report about your day trip on the Reeves. (And printed and saved it!) You had mentioned that you had been there in a previous reply to me. It would be day 1 of my dreamed for east west crossing. It sounds as if it would be quite tough but probably not impossible for me to reach Tutuwai Hut that first day. (Adding on a few more hours to your times!) Now I just need someone to describe the route from Tutuwai to Alpha… A friend who I hike with frequently will probably be with me IF this plan does come about next summer, but I still would want to join someone else with experience in the area AND with good navigation skills. ( I noted your comment about the track having many different branches between Rocky Knob and Reeves.) Maybe Amelia or Robb have some input?

#5 Comment By Mike McGavin On 16 April, 2012 @ 1:24 pm

Hi Thea. Yeah I think a day would be fine for getting to Tutuwai, as long as you start at a reasonable time. Even without starting until 10am, I’m fairly sure I could’ve easily been down at Tutuwai and possibly back to the car again before dark, although I tend to go up hills more quickly than most and only had a daypack so that may not be realistic for most. Just be prepared for a bit of slippery-ness near the start, and perpetual climbing for a while. Don’t feel too concerned from my comments about the many-different-branches — it’s pretty well marked towards Tutuwai, and chances are good that you’ll notice if you’re suddenly walking somewhere that’s not the intended track. I tend to get distracted by those sorts of details when I’m looking around and writing, though. Good luck with the planning.

If you’re planning a multi-day trip from north of the Rimutaka Hill, I’d still consider looking at Walls Whare (the road-end across the Waiohine river from the Reeves track), as it has a better camp-ground and facilities for parking vehicles and stuff. From there you might go to Cone Hut on the first night (further up the Tauherenkau from Tutuwai), which is less climbing than to go over Reeves, then head up towards Alpha Hut via Bulls Mound. I wrote up a bit about that ~5 years ago [24]. Cone Hut’s a very historic hut with a dirt floor, and you could either stay inside or camp outside. [25].

#6 Comment By Thea Jenkins On 20 April, 2012 @ 3:52 am

Hello again Mike, helpful info, thanks. Topo map especially. Much better than the “terra” map I have which is also obviously out of date. I will try to get my own copy of the topo map. Can I order on line somehow? It didn’t seem to download from the copy you linked in your message. My old map showed a footbridge crossing the Tauherenikau across from the Block XVI track (that is why I had thought of going via Tutuwai hut). BUT no footbridge shown on the topo map. I suspect that might have been the Coal Stream bridge mentioned in your report? With no way of crossing the Tauherenikau the route via Cone and Bull Mound does seem more feasible. Tutuwai Hut sounds much more comfortable though – (matresses!). I’ll just keep chewing on this. I am going to try to get in touch with a couple of Carterton trampers I met at a hut on Waikaremoana last month. Ian McArthur and his wife Annie. I don’t suppose you’ve ever met them on the trail?
Hoping to hear more from you…

#7 Comment By Mike McGavin On 2 May, 2012 @ 10:33 pm

Hi Thea. The Terramaps are pretty good sometimes, especially with the Tararua one being double-sided if that’s what you have. Don’t throw it out because they don’t make them any more since Terralink lost the map-printing contract a couple of years ago. My main gripe with my Tararua Terramap was that I’d often be off-track trying to read the contour lines, and they’d deleted them so they could write a tourist note over the top of the map about yet another old log hauler lying in the middle of the bush. They’re fine if you’re staying on-track, though.

I don’t think Cone’s such a bad hut to stay in, but maybe you do need an appreciation for that sort of thing. 🙂 There’s great camping outside if you’re up for it, and a picnic table.

I’m unsure what the state is of bridges in that area. Personally I’d just bank on walking straight across the Tauherenikau if it’s in low flow (here are a [26] of [27] from outside Smiths Creek Shelter when I was playing in the river). Often if there aren’t bridges in a place like this, it’s because the river’s so crossable except for when it’s rained a lot, but if you’re not confident around rivers then perhaps not. DoC still recommends [28], although I’d not be surprised if that’s completely out of date and people have pushed alternative tracks through the bush. Here’s [29] with people discussing the bridge over the Tauherenikau 30 minutes up from Smiths Creek Shelter. (The NZ Tramper site’s gone down from time to time lately, so if the website’s server chokes, try the link again a few hours later.) There are people with good advice available on that website, incidentally, and probably people who’ve been there more recently than I have.

You can buy the topo maps from some outdoor shops fairly cheaply—Bivouac Outdoor in Wellington always has a good supply, and possibly Bivouac in other centres, and they’d be able to order any in if you know the map code. [30] — I’m sure there’s an online retailer or two, but I can’t see them listed there. Land Information NZ will sell them even more cheaply at bulk rates, but only if you have a bulk order of 20+ maps. They’re also downloadable from the LINZ website if you want to print your own (think a 100-200MB TIFF file), and the easiest way to find the one you want might is to visit that website I linked to, click the download link (just below the print link on the left), then click the part of the map for which you want to download the original, and it’ll show a link to the downloadable files.

Good luck with your planning.

#8 Comment By John Rhodes On 14 May, 2012 @ 7:43 pm

Hello Mike, pleased to see you’re apparently back in NZ. Next time you go up Mt. Reeves, please drop in for a cup of tea & natter. Cheers, John

#9 Comment By Mike McGavin On 14 May, 2012 @ 11:50 pm

Thanks, John. I’m afraid it was only a fleeting visit and a hop part way up Taranaki and a shimmy up Reeves was all I could manage. I wish it was longer! I’ll look you up to say hi, though, next time I’m likely to be in town whenever that is.

#10 Comment By Stephen On 29 June, 2012 @ 9:23 pm

Hi Mike
Did a good daytrip last year starting at Walls, across Coal Creek and up to Reeves (there’s a track that doesn’t take much fossicking to find shortly after the big swingbridge) , down to Tutuwai, up to Cone and back over to Walls. Quite do-able in a day, and no cows!

#11 Comment By Mike McGavin On 3 July, 2012 @ 5:29 pm

Howdy Stephen. That sounds like a nifty little loop. Thanks for the pointers. Next time I’m in the area it’ll hopefully be less rainy weather on the way and I’ll think ahead enough to give myself more time.

#12 Comment By adrian wood On 7 March, 2013 @ 12:43 pm

Hi Mike,
Thanks for the post. I went on 04/03 for an explore of the two routes mentioned, they are both easy to find, with good ground trails. Have you done the route south from .620? I would be keen to join you for a day walk if your interested. I had nice fine weather and stopped my walk at .785 where I found a nice rocky lookout just off the main track. Views to Totara flats, the repeater on Cone ridge, and Neill ridge. Was last here 2009 with WTMC in the clag/rain.

#13 Comment By Mike McGavin On 13 March, 2013 @ 12:04 am

Hi Adrian. Thanks for the invite. I’m afraid I’m living overseas (Melbourne), for now at least :(, and my visits to NZ tend to be fleeting and with tramping/daywalks planned on short notice albeit highly anticipated, but it’d be tricky to catch up for a daywalk in the immediate future. (I’ll be back over Easter for a WTMC Ruahine trip, but with other commitments I’m unsure how much I’ll be able to get out around that.)

Thanks for indicating how well walked those routes are. I haven’t spent time in the specific area apart from what I’ve written above, but I doubt it’d be hard to find people who know it very well.