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Heels 1969

Northern Main Range

page 7

Northern Main Range

This trip is supposed to be unique: it was not a crapout. It was led by Keith with myself about 200 yds behind. Half the party climbed off the Field's Express at Levin on the Friday night, and met the other half, (cold and impatient), on the platform. We took a taxi to the pipe bridge and after a fast trip over open fields and along the sidle track above the Ohau River, we arrived at Ohau Hut at about 10.30 p.m.

Keith woke at 5 a.m. and cooked a vast "pog", after which we packed and moved off up the Ohau River. At South Ohau Hut we took the Yeates Track up a steep spur to Te Matawai Hut, where we stopped for scrog. The weather up to this time had been rather cloudy but calm, and as we made our way from Te Matawai to above the bush-line, the mist enveloped us, cutting visibility to about 100ft. It did not clear again until we were in the saddle between Pukematawai and Butcher's Knob.

This section of the Main Range, (from Pukematawai to Crawford), appears to be comparatively untravelled. There is no muddy track through the tussock, as is common on similar main routes. Fortunately the ridge is well defined, except for the initial descent from Pukematawai into the saddle. Large quantities of leatherwood were encountered at first, (causing lacerations to lower parts of the body), but later the ridge was covered with bush except for knobs such as Dracophyllum and Kelliher. At Dracophyllum Knob there is a NZFS Bivvy, where we stopped for lunch at about 2 p.m. Keith presented the bivvy with a log-book, (suitably "crinted"), and we had a brew from the rusty water in the tank.

The sun broke through when we were between Dracophyllum and Kelliher, and by the time we had made it to the nerg above Nicholls Hut (I was starting to stagger a bit at this stage), the sky had cleared completely, affording a good view of the Northern Tararuas.

Nicholls Hut has a lot of character. This is no doubt due to the floor which slopes south-eastwards, making standing upright rather tiring, unless you have something to lean on. Two NZFS Cullers were using it as base at the time and their overseer was staying the night also. He had spent his day installing a small coal-burning stove and chimney which had recently been airdropped in. This stove proved extremely efficient and in fact was so hot that we slept outside our sleeping bags. The NZFS boss tallied the tails of the deer that the cullers had shot.

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Animals were scarce in that part of the ranges and were below the bush-line anyway, which made stalking and shooting very difficult. Barney, a cheerful, bearded Englishman had had difficulty in maintaining one kill per day, whilst Walter (a sour Austrian, well known for his over-use of a certain four-lettered word), had not shot anything for a week.

On Sunday, We made a late start and proceeded along the tops to Crawford, stopping there for scrog and photos. The weather had remained fine and clear except for some ground-mist, leaving Ruapehu and Egmont visible. The remainder of the trip out to Otaki Forks was notable only because I stood on my spectacles at Waitewaewae so I didn't see much more.

Keith Jones, David Porter.