We set of for the Labour weekend with intentions of a 3 night hike adventure in the Tararuas. Our plan was, to hike to Herepai Hut on the Friday night after work, the next day, tramping over the ridge to Dundas Hut. On the Sunday we would head over the valley to Cattle Ridge/Roaring Stag and then out again on the Monday to the carpark. We knew this was going to be a huge weekend but we were up for the challenge and well prepaired with food and equipment.
Things didn’t go quite as planned.
If you are reading this and unaware of what DoC Backcountry Huts are, check out my introductory guide here: A Beginners guide to New Zealand back country DoC Huts
Our Night at Herepai Hut
With a beautiful clear and still Friday night, we started from the Putara Road End carpark at 8pm, hiking with head torches to reach Herepai. Having been to Roaring Stag Hut previously, which takes the same route but heads in a different direction at the the ridge we were feeling confident with the track and knew it would only take a couple of hours, which it did. It was beautiful hiking on the clear and sill night.
We reached Herepai Hut around 10pm and no one was there, so we settled in for the night ready for the big day tomorrow. We were up at first light, got ready, had some porridge and wrote our remarks in the DoC book and set off climbing up to the ridge.
The weather was windy but fairly clear, not the great stillness of the Friday but we were optimistic. By the time we reached the ridge we were fully immersed in cloud. We pressed on further adding more layers but the gales were getting stronger and there were no longer any clear patches. I started to feel out of my comfort zone about an hour into the ridge when I could barely stand up and I also saw a gravestone from a poor soul who had lost their life up here. I tried to push further but it was getting too much. With 5 hours of ridgeline ahead I knew this was beyond me, i shouted through the wind to Lucas that we needed to discuss our plans.
We sat in as sheltered spot as possible and discussed our options. I knew that if the ridge was just another hour i could continue but Dundas was a long way off so I had to admit defeat and make the call to turn back. This was a very hard decision, especially seeing as we had planned our entire weekend around making this trip and would have to turn back to the same hut. So we headed back to Herepai feeling a bit deflated but knowing it was the right decision.
Anyway we spent the day at Herepai and the hiked back to the car in the evening to drive back to Wellington. Not quite the adventure we thought we were going to have but an adventure nontheless. It is really amazing how the weather can be up in the mountains. labour weekend was one of really beautiful weather in Wellington!
Lessons learnt: You can never assume or be to careful and you always need all your gear!
Tararua Forest Park
Date of our tramp:
Labour Weekend, October 2017
Route and Road end:
Left our car at the Putara Road End car park and hiked up via field hut and table top. Otaki Forks is a 1.5 hour drive from Wellington.
Hours to hut:
A 2 hour hike to Herepai Hut. (It would have been a 5 hour hike to Dundas, followed by another 5 to Cattle Ridge and then a 6 hour hike back to the car park)
This track is well maintained. You follow the river and several swing bridges for about 45 minutes until you start a 45 minute climb upto the ridge which is very steep but barable and then you take the fork right for around 40 minutes to the hut. There are your classic tree roots but its well marked and well used.
Herepai Hut is a great 10 bunk hut. It is very sheltered but rattles a lot in the wind. There is an awesome wood burner and a good log store. someone has also left a folding chair as part of their ‘take a folding chair to every hut in the Tararuas project.”
A great hut for a good night sleep and a shelter from the storm
My Hut Rating:
All in all a 4.5/5
Thanks for reading and come back soon!
If you are interested in reading about my previous hut trips in the Tararuas, check out some of the following blog posts: