Sunday, 6 April 2014

Cow Creek - Mitre Flats trip (29th-31st August 2013)

After the Herepai tramp, Cody and I decided that during the next uni holidays, we would do a 3 day trip.
Originally, we were planning to tramp to Cattle Ridge hut via Roaring Stag, 1 night at Cattle Ridge, head across cattle ridge and down to Cow Creek for the 2nd night, then out via the Ruamahanga River track.

However, due to a combination of our laziness, un-fitness, and rubbish weather, we decided to go to Cow Creek for night one, then head down the Waingawa river track, night 2 at Mitre Flats hut, then out along the Barra Track.

The day we were due to start, we changed plans again, and decided to head over Blue Range to Cow Creek, as we weren't sure about the quality and condition of the Ruamahanga River track, as well as river levels.

We ended up leaving the Kiriwhakapapa car park/camp ground at about 9:50am.
It took us a bit longer to get to Blue Range hut than expected, simply due to a combination of our fitness (or lack thereof), and the steepness of the track.

We reached the track junction after almost 3 hours of crappy uphill track, and all parts of us not covered by rain coats were drenched. Thankfully, the track to blue range hut is nice and mostly flat.
At the track junction

Track to Blue Range Hut

Whilst on the track to Blue Range hut, we realised it was (very lightly) snowing, which was pretty awesome. Although snow had been forecast for the Tararua's, we didn't expect it at this altitude.

We reached Blue Range hut at 1:08pm, about 3hours and 20 mins after leaving the car park. Blue Range hut is a cosy, quirky little hut, adorned with humourous signs and old topographic maps. For some reason, we decided it was worth lighting the fire. We ended spending over an hour at Blue Range, not leaving until approximately 2:30pm.

We expected a fairly short, easy trip down to Cow Creek hut. We were wrong. Very wrong.
From the track junction, the track climbs gently to the top of the ridge. This was the nice part of the track, plus the snow made things look cool.
Once we started heading down the ridge, things got bad. The track started off nice, and we were making good time. It wasn't that long before we reached the turn-off to the old track, which is marked with pink ribbon (I think the old tracks heads along the top of the ridge and down to cow saddle, and then follows the maintained track from Cattle ridge & the ruamahanga river south to Cow Creek hut).

 Not knowing the state of the old track, and assuming that a new track must have been cut because the old one was rubbish and/or longer than it needed to be, we stayed on the new track.
The track drops fairly steeply down to the Waingawa River, and took an incredibly long amount of time, because the gradient and track condition made for very slow going. In fact, it was dark by the time we reached the river. From there, the track dips and rises, crosses some streams, and a slip. Whilst this wouldn't normally be a problem, it was dark and we were tired, so we found it pretty shitty. We almost lost the track a few times, particularly on the slip, where we couldn't see the track, and there was no markers.

After what felt like a very long time, we finally reached the swing bridge across the river to the hut. Crossing it was an interesting experience at night time.

We arrived at the hut at about 6:30pm, approx. 4 hours after leaving Blue Range hut, and almost an hour more than we'd predicted. In hindsight, 4 hours (for us) isn't an unreasonable time to cover that distance, considering that steep down-hill slows us down, as did not being able to see much in the dark. Additionally, the track (whilst not great), was not as bad as it seemed at the time (and as I just described it) - just goes to show how your mind affects you in the bush.

Cow Creek hut is a standard 8 bunk NZFS hut from the deer culling days in the 60s, but has been refurbished at some point and has a standard-issue DOC firebox (which heats the hut pretty damn well). Thankfully, there was plenty of wood, so we got the fire going, cooked dinner, swigged some cheap bourbon, and had a good sleep.

It looks different at day time

We awoke the next morning to a drizzly, misty rain, which was an improvement on the day before.
We headed of at about 10:50am, following the Waingawa River track to Mitre Flats hut.

The track had a few more ups and downs than we expected, and (according to the GPS) deviated significantly from the mapped track. The track crossed multiple unbridged streams, and a couple of slips (one of which is quite large). The biggest slip is (according to the GPS) ~8km from Cow Creek hut, and not too far from Mitre Flats.
Just over 1km later, we reached Mitre Flats hut at about 4:55pm (5 hours and 5 minutes after we left Cow Creek).

Mitre flats is a nice spacious hut, which we shared with 2 other trampers (some guy and his daughter). Being a serviced hut, Mitre Flats is meant to have wood supplied, but there was none when we were there, only coal. This seems like a good opportunity to remind people to start the fire with wood, the - once it's nice and hot - start burning coal.
Dinner was followed by some more swigs of bourbon, which, um, lightened the mood, shall we say. Good times were had by all. That is, until we had to settle down when the afore-mentioned guy and his daughter turned up.

The next morning, us and the guy milled some firewood. Later on, him and his daughter left to hike up to Mitre Peak, and we left to go home. We left at about 11:45am.

We took the Barra Track (which follows the Waingawa River) out to the roadend. The track's not bad, but the usual ups and downs that river-sidling tracks have were more uppy and downy than usual, which was not pleasant given how physically worn out we were. The final section of track is through farm land, and is on a metalled road thing. We reached the roadend at about 4:30pm

 This was the first tramp I did with my (then-new) Canon EOS70D. Inspired by it's video function, our parents warnings about safety, and making fun of Bear Grylls, we decided to start filming our tramp. That video became "Vaguely Dangerous Wilderness."
Check it out here:

This video then gave rise to out tramping webseries, which we named Vaguely Dangerous Wilderness. You can find all the episodes on my YouTube channel.

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