Weather reports leading up to the trip suggested that it was likely to be as good as could be expected in August, and indeed the day opened with a cool start, but with clear skies, and no wind, perfect for the time of year.
Car pooling had been organised with pick ups in Masterton, Solway, and in Carterton, for the Eight party members joining the trip. We travelled into the Waiohine gorge road end arriving just before 9am, and we were ready to start the tramp with the crossing of the river on the hour. It was thought that it would take 6- 6.5 hours for the circuit that was planned, and so this start time gave us extra daylight if we took a little longer.
Crossing the suspension bridge, the sun was starting to poke into the valley, and while it was still cool, things started to get nicely warm, as soon as the party started along the true right of the river, along the track towards Totara flats. The track was is reasonable condition and certainly not as muddy and wet as the last time either the trip leader or the scribe last travelled it. Some conversation was had with regard to the flora in this section of the valley, and its similarity to the western side of the range, Nikau , and Kiekie making the bush feel more tropical than we are used to on the eastern! It took approximately an hour to reach the Clem creek crossing, and a further 15 minutes before we stopped for morning tea, having found a nice spot on the track with sun streaming across it, and a view up the river valley, towards the clouded top of Mt. Holdsworth.
Carrying on towards Totara flats we reached the junction with the track to Cone saddle at about 11am. A brief adjustment of clothing, readied us for the climb from 190m up to Point 572, an unremarkable rounded section of the track, of open mixed forest. On the climb up it was also noted that a number of Rimu and Rewarewa were present along with Rata. One member of the party took the fall of the day, having immediately beforehand described how they were watching the ground carefully…..fortunately all was well and only pride was hurt!
After topping out at the high point, we dropped approximately 60m, and transitioned into a traverse across the tributaries of Clem creek. Two of the tributaries potentially could result in wet boots, if flow was high, however, this was not the case on this occasion, with flow rates low, although using another member of the party as a steady shoulder prior to a leap, can have consequences if the underlaying rock is slippery! Fortunately, neither of the party involved actually fell into the creek.
This was also a good place to refill water bottles, as we were lunching on the ridge, which rather surprised one of the North American contingent of the party, who had never drunk from a stream on a tramp before! Hopefully no tummy trouble after that…..
The climb up to the saddle finally started to take its toll on the stomachs of a few of the party about 15 mins from the saddle itself, and a few pieces of chocolate were consumed on the last 30 or 40 metres of vertical height gain. On commenting that the leader had not produced her usual chocolate block, she confessed that in fact she did not have any chocolate on the trip!
Reaching the Saddle we took a couple of photographs of the group, and looked at the height of the old signage in the tree, which a one time had been a little easier to spot, before getting into our well earned lunches.
Over lunch it was discussed that the trip leader really ought to always have a block of chocolate for the party, and that certainly a few demerit points would be placed on her score card. While there was still some sunshine, and blue sky above the trees, and no wind across the ridge, it did chill a bit by the time we set off on the last 100m of climb, however most were warm again by the time we arrived at the junction to Cone hut, and the start of the track back to the car park.
The track was muddier on the downhill section of the route compared to much of the day, but it was not too bad, and we carried on through to the steeper gradient and the final section, where the greasiness of the track usually takes a few casualties! On this occasion despite a few attempts to skate parts of the descent, we all made it back without incident, arriving at the Swing bridge 2 hours after leaving the lunch stop.
It was great to have a good-sized party out for the day, most of who were able to add some red line to their map. Thanks to those who joined in.
Total time 7 hours
Gail (Leader), Michelle, Rowan (guest), Lorelei, Tony, Brent (Guest), Nigel, Conrad (scribe) & ‘Boots’.