Tramp: Waikuku Lodge, Sutherland Hut, Aorangi Range

A great loop adventure in the northern Aorangi Range to celebrate Bushcraft Wellington Meetup’s 1st birthday.

Waikuku > Sutherland Hut loop 2021-09-12

Fresh out of a Level 3 lockdown, 17 of us head out to Waikuku Lodge well-south of Martinborough on Friday night, to spend two nights out here. With two fireplaces (one efficient and open and visually satisfying) we have a good night in. The lodge is a beaut, with drive-in access (fine for towncars), albeit via a long gravel road that’ll have you dodging lambs and chasing rabbits, just not too close to the cliff. There’s 3x hot showers, gas kitchen hobs with extractors and 2 longdrops, 2 lounges, 3 bunkrooms and nice new DOC mattresses.

Inside Waikuku Lodge

We head off about 9am in the morning, taking 15 min to walk to the roadend. There’s a couple of hunters cars here, and a note not to shoot the Judas goat/s.

Group photo at Waikuku before heading out

We join the Old Mill / Pig Ridge track. This is regenerating forest roughly 50-70years, so pretty pokey for a while and on an old bulldozed cutting, so well graded and easy going. The forest gets much nicer further in and around the first intersection.

Heading SW, we reach open grassland farmed in the ~1930s and slowly recovering, though fires in the 50s slowed that down some. Hunters spot from the nearby knoll while we chat on the one nextdoor. I’m a little sorry we’re ruining their chances, such is our number and volume!

Yakkin on the Old Mill track

Dropping down, there’s an ATV route that’s still used occasionally. We follow that (mostly), all the way down to the fields W of Sutherlands hut.

From here we just cross the Turanganui River a couple of times moseying over to Sutherlands Hut.

The hut is in pretty good knick, with a bit of hunters’ kit lying about and a lot of rat poo.

The crew at Sutherlands Hut
A few old grand trees remain

After lunch here, we head on up. at the Mt Ross track intersection, half our party head off up the mountain and the rest of us (and me) just head back to Waikuku via the old 4×4 road.

There’s lots of nice flat grassy spots for camping down here!

Crossing the Turanganui River East Branch (about 6 crossings)

The crew who head up Mt Ross find a steep trail, but great views (and cell coverage) up on the ridge. They have a time of finding the track coming back down the trail that heads W off pt 838 but get there in the end.

Views from the ridge by Mt Ross
Goblin forest up Mt Ross

Those of us following the road find it easy going, though the road is so rutted as to require some pretty serious 4×4 to cross it, fresh tire tracks indicate it is still used.

Back at Waikuku, we sit in the sun and have a great time into the night. We pack up and head the 2.5hrs back to Wellington bright and early in the AM.

A great little adventure with a fantastic lodge as a base that’s accessible to towncars, in an area of the range not frequented by trampers. Pretty fun way to spend Bushcraft Wellington’s first birthday with a great community – if you’re keen to join us, you should!

Thanks so much to all involved, the rangers caring for Waikuku Lodge and NZ at large for giving us a COVID Level 2 we can still get out and enjoy it.

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