Pakihore - At Last!
Pakihore - At Last!
Off to a good start! Overambitious driving gets our transport bogged down in the Roaring Meg, resulting in a happy hour spent extricating it (chains'n'all). Farewelling the Southerners noisily, we flounder off to Penn Creek sidle, with piking noises being heard at approximately 5-minute intervals. Once across the slips (don't look down!) we decide on the high side and potter round for ages finding it; Jane cans out over a bank and loses the torch (John's unfortunately) down a rather vertical pitch. Eventually we reach Penn Creek, and thrash up it (just 50 yards round the corner!) until the hut lumbers into view. Sadly we find it occupied, but the Nzfs track-cutters in there are very obliging - how would you feel being woken at 2.00 a.m.? Outpits onto rubber mattresses, except for Rod who strategically places himself on the floor in the line of a howling draught.
In the morning, three sluggish people crawl from the pit and eventually out the door, later than intended; Rod and Tony craftily manage an extra half-hour in the hut after we've left. Eventually they catch up with the advance guard, who have waited an hour for them, and Pakihore Ridge is conquered inch by inch. In perfect weather, cold but clear, we wander up between the moss-covered beeches; as we reach the bushline, the whole panorama of snowy Southern peaks burst upon us, dazzling in the midday sun. A food and foto stop and then up to McIntosh and along to a tarn in the saddle. The wind is cold and the high cloud increases, so we slurp our purple refresh and prepare to attack the Tararua Peaks. Frost is heavy on the shaded side of the ridge, but the chain-ladder is in full sun and poses no problems. Long iceaxes prove a nuisance on some of the steep bits before the ladder, though...and the only snow we find is in the tussocky hollows around the tarn at Mangahuka.
Having decided that 3.00 p.m. is the latest we can leave Mangahuka Hut we find only 10 minutes left for a belated lunch. The cleg has come in but we soon dip below it on the eastern side of the divide: we admire the open, flat Meatsafe Spur before turning to the lumpish and much less inviting Concertina Knob. Picking up a good disced track at the bushline we descend rapidly - then climb (ugh) less rapidly to the Knob itself. Erica is well ahead on this lap, but we are soon all moving together down the ridge, losing the discs with increasing frequency as the light dims. Eventually it's out with the torches...actually only one torch because Tony's carby needs water, Rod's is unaccountably missing, Erica's is stuffed, and John's has been written off as previously described. So Erica takes the one remaining one and moves capably from disc to disc, while the other 4 follow, using iceaxes for the first time. Tap tap... tap tap...we're travelling blind! This last stretch takes us about 1 ½ hours, as opposed to about 20 minutes daylight time. At last we see the lights of Neill Forks Hut beneath us, and with page 12a joyous Mogambo we plunge down (splat!) and across the bridge to warmth and certainty. Having expected 17 schoolkids, we are pleasantly surprised to find only 3 Hvtc girls in residence. Off with the boots, on with the stew, and into the pit at the comparatively early hour of 10.30 p.m. Rod plays martyr again on the floor, and is joined this time by Tony.
People are (understandably) reluctant to move in the morning, resulting in a slow-motion getaway. Up the track to Cone Ridge, some suffering more than others - It's amazing the thin excuses people will use for a rest! Eventually all are together again on Cone Ridge, and about 1½ hours later we pause at a neat little tarn just below the top of Cone. Admiring the half-inch ice on the puddles, and the view, and then the milo, refresh, cream-crackers and apples, unaccountably takes us an hour. The weather is gradually deteriorating and our spot becomes quite windy and cold, so we take off down the track to the Tauherenik, playing Kansas City Bombers (or is it Downhill Racers?) all the way. Tony and John do a quick sprint and a slide down Block XIX, while the other three have a more leisurely walk to Cone Hut. Actually, Rod finds it difficult to walk at all, after stuffing his ankle on this stretch.
The urge to linger at the hut is strong for some, but the urge to get home that night overrules, and with grim determination and few words we plod off down the valley. Blunder, slip, wade, trip, wrench, wade again, curse the rain, curse the sand in the boots, and so down past Tutuwae, A-D and a few big slips. Tony and John are despatched to run out before dark, while we three stumble as quickly as possible down to Smith's Creek, and up it in the gathering gloom. From here on it's easy: Insert both feet into groove, put A into G, and place one foot in front of the other until the top is reached. 3 to a torch proves a better arrangement than the 5 of the previous night, and some shortcutting, worrying and mudsliding sees the last of us at Kaitoke Shelter at about 6.30 p.m. Aaah! dry sox, long-Johns, dry shirts, full tummies, and a ride home in a big warm comfortable Kingswood. All too much!
John was John Paber; Erica was Erica Law; Tony was Tony Bowen; Rod was the Leader; and Jane was the scribe.page ii page iii