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Heels 1976

Carkeek Ridge - May 1976

page 31

Carkeek Ridge - May 1976

Well - it started like this. I got a bee in my bonnet over Carkeek Ridge - this bee was implanted by several people mentioning to me what a grouse place Carkeek was, and in the same breath enumerating untold trips that had headed for this central Tararua ridge, only to pike along the way, or to be held up by the weather. Those whom I accompanied on a trip to Tarn Ridge via Cow Creek and Table Ridge in early May will probably verify that by the time the bee in my bonnet had become a hornet and I was pretty slacked off when we didn't get to Carkeek.

A few days later Rod said he'd like to go. I was naturally a starter. Damnit! Sheer innocent enthusiasm can be a desirable trait but who could really enjoy sloshing through the water laden track to Waitewaewae, when the rain was persistant, the rivers were up and both our torches played up?

Thursday morning was worse. The climb up to Junction Knob stuffed me completely. But at least the weather was fine and clear and we made Nichols hut by about one, in time for a brew with an obliging F.S. culler about to leave the Tararuas for the season. He gave us some venison - very pleasant bloke.

Anyway, we went dowm to Park Forks, while he liked his chances for McGregor Biv., especially when Rod mentioned that the Otaki was up, and so getting out from Upper Otaki Hut, where he had planned to go, might be a bit difficult.

From Park Forks the track up Carkeek is steep for perhaps forty-five minutes, then increasingly gentle until the bushline, where the hut lies, amidst bush replete with deer trails. We arrived with the sun low in the sky and filtering beautiful light patterns through the bush.

An examination of the hut book showed that no-one had been to the hut between May and October of 1975 - I suppose deep, soft snow makes the ridge inaccessible in winter. We got the old Waimakariri stove going, and in no time at all were eating a delicious tender venison stew. At night it snowed lightly, and further up the ridge we could see the peaks Thompson and Lancaster glistening in the moonlight - a sight never to be forgotten.

The next day dawned fine and cool, and after some deliberation we were out of pit and on our way up the ridge, climbing steadily page 32all the way. Yet again the views were amazing - Tarn Ridge, with its hut so exposed to the winds; the headwaters of the Waiohine and Park, where I would love to camp one summer's night; and the peaks of the northern Tararuas.

Despite soft snow we made good progress, although I was knackered by the time we got over Lancaster onto Tarn Ridge. Approaching Arete, the weather began to close in from the south, so we went over Arete and Pukematawai and down to Te Matawai fairly promptly.

Despite these inconveniences we quickly made ourselves at home and spent the next day, Saturday, in pit, awaiting others from the Club who were coming in via Gable End. eventually they arrived after what turned out to be a long day's bushbashing for some of them. No-one seemed very interested in a moonlight Arete on the Saturday night although I would have gone had anyone else been a starter...

On Sunday we all went out via the Ohau - some went from Te Matawai down to Girdlestone Saddle and thence to South Ohau out via the river while the more lazy and less adventurous went down the Yeates to the hut. The saddle route is very attractive, but little used - it lies by Dowling Falls (40-50') which are probably worth a visit in themselves.

After lunch at South Ohau Hut we made our way out after one of my best Tararuas trips - ample good tops travel, good bush, good food and many memorable views. All this after the inauspicious start to the tramp. And Carkeek Ridge? - "just the berries".