Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Roaring Stag and a Thunderstorm

There is perhaps nothing more effective at ensuring stubbornness as someone telling you they don't think you should be doing something. And so it was with this tramp.
Repeated warnings about how unambiguously rubbish the weather was forecast to  be served only to strengthen our resolve to continue with our plans.
So, at around 1pm on Saturday 29th May, we headed off from the Putara road-end toward Roaring Stag Hut. The notorious perma-bog at the start of the track was at full strength due to recent rainfall, but the walk up the valley was largely uneventful. In a couple of places the swollen river was within a meter of the track and the tiny little creeks all over the place were bigger than we'd ever seen them, but for the first 50-60 minutes the weather wasn't all that bad (for the Tararua's anyway).

Inevitably, it wasn't long until the shit hit the fan, and about 20-30 minutes into the climb up to the track junction (and just after a drink break), the wild blue yonder (which was actually a dark grey by this point), proceeded to rain heavily on our trudging, polypropylene-clad parade. Then came the thunder and the lightning.
It was cool for a while, but the unrelenting downpour soon had our clothing and spirits well and truly dampened. Or rather, saturated.

We hoofed it up the rest of the hill, reaching the junction at around 3:30. After commenting on the new DOCware sign, we ploughed our way down toward the hut. The flatter parts of the track along the top had extensive surface flooding, though this was largely only ankle-deep so was barely an issue with leather boots and gaiters. More of the same sludge and flooding at the bottom where the track follows a stream.

We slowed down only for the two stream crossings near the hut. The streams were extremely swollen (up to the middle of my thigh at times) and flowing very fast.
We reached the hut just before 5pm, and there was much rejoicing. By this point, our bottom, non-rain protected, halves were thoroughly soaked through, making the changing into warm, dry clothes the most joyous it has ever been.

This time around, I found myself acutely aware of the amount of spider webs this hut is covered in. The underside of the verandah roof is covered in a thick mat of the creepy stuff, it's seriously bizarre. Other than that, the 11 year old hut is in great nick, and became nice and toasty pretty quickly after getting the fire going.
The evening was full of warm food, hot drinks, card games and (for me) a cracking headache. The night was somewhat restless, constantly wondering whether the weather we could hear was rain, wind, the river roaring or some combination thereof, midnight contemplations on river levels and how sodden we may or may not get the next day. Plus a pig screaming at some ungodly hour and the inevitable need to take a leak in the middle of the night.

Regardless, a good sleep was had eventually, and we woke up feeling (at least a little bit) rejuvenated the next day, with the lack of rain putting us in good spirits for the walk out. After a morning brew, wood gathering, and cleanup, we left the hut at 9:30.

Morning view from the hut

The streams were down significantly from yesterday, the first one not even getting water inside out boots, and the second only mid-calf height at it's deepest point.
The track was drier as well. Still boggy as all hell, but the surface flooding had mostly dissipated.

First stream after crossing

Second stream

Boggy track
The walk back up to track junction was trouble-free and as scenic as ever, with only one or two spots of rain and even the occasional glimpse of blue sky. After yesterdays shit storm, it was nice to be able to enjoy our surroundings.

We reached the track junction after just under two hours at about 11:20, where we stopped for a snack and some water before lumping our way down the hill into the Mangatainoka valley.
New DOCware at the track junction
After crossing the swing bridge we stopped for another drink and a kit-kat before taking a cruisey stroll out to the roadend which we reached at 1:20 (3hrs 50 mins after leaving the hut)

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