- Date: 17/03/2018 – 18/03/2018
- Party: Larry, Garry
- Night location/s: Kapakapanui Hut
The Kapakapanui track circuit perches on the eastern edge of the Tararuas. It was recommended to me last year as a good first tramp for Gerry and I. Gerry protested due to GHOSTS. So this weekend I took a different G up for his first tramp!
We set off from the roadend at 3:40pm. There are plenty of cars here, and I worry for us finding a space in the hut.
The track starts through a short distance of private farmland, either well-returned to bush or a blackberry thicket. We encountered no livestock, just easy stiles. Soon enough we are at the Ngatiawa river – seriously this takes 2 minutes.
The river is fortuitously low, as the track zig-zags across about five times before the track branches. The cliffs of the riverbank show dodgy walkways, hastily scrambled into being by those with higher and more dangerous water! Even low, wet feet are an inevitability, it isn’t a wide river – all the water is right there.
15 minutes in we reach the fork in the river, and the signposted deviation to the track. To the north east, the steeper climb directly to the hut. To the south east, the more gentle route to Kapakapanui summit.
We cross the forked stream and begin our ascent to the hut.
We climb 460 metres in the first kilometre. It is a well marked but brutal climb. G, a naturally fit man, mountain-goats away from me, and I plod along behind feeling unfit.
We cross paths with two different sets of daywalking people – it is only now I realise the Kapakapanui loop at 6hrs return is a pretty great daywalk too!
90 minutes from the road end we reach an old survey pole at elevation 649. From here, the track mercifully softens to be quite the consistent but gentle gradient. An hour later the track again steepens. We rest, and as we get moving I say “that glass of wine is going to go down well” – and spot the hut at 6:10pm, a mere 2.5hrs from the road end. The track was dry and obvious.
There’s a tent outside which has me worried; I have just one tent with me, where will G go? But fortune smiles – two ladies and a kid are testing a tent, there’s another hunter/DOC dude and that’s it. We can fit. It’s a great tidy hut, maintained by the Kapiti Deerstalkers Association. The add-on woodshed and kitchen is a great addition and we do our cooking out there. The bunks are solid wood, which is a non-saggy blessing; but the mattresses are too long, so only four can fit. Fortunately that is our number.
G writes his first entry in a visitor book – proud day. The book is littered with Aaron Jack, the hero of Kapakapanui hut, fixing dripping taps, fetching firewood, being on every page and an all-round legend.
The stars are spectacular overnight.
The weather is still and clear. I rise at 7, and take my time waiting for G to get up. Unfortunately G was awake, waiting for me to be ready to leave before moving. I assumed he’d take forever to have coffee and porridge etc. so took my time, a coffee and a hot chocolate etc. This game of get-up chicken had us leave the hut with the family group at 9am.
The next thirty minutes are surprisingly muddy compared with the rest of the trip – but then the beech clears abruptly and we are on the tops. The views are spectacular – to Kapiti and the South Island and inland to the central ranges.
We pass the family, and stop for snacks at the Kapakapanui summit at 10am (30min). The family catch us, and surround us taking panorama photos where the people run to each end of the photo. While amusing it’s all quite annoying really – of all the mountain, it had to be with us?!
All too soon we leave the beautiful tops and views, heading back into the bush.
A toutouwai (New Zealand robin) hangs out with us on a downhill rest-stop – going down is almost as hard as up, and we thought this was the easier ridge!
Near noon we stop for a view. It’s a lovely moment, sitting an enjoying the view – not a word shared. A shadow passes over us – it’s a hawk, circling four times, checking us out. Maybe the guy with bananas on his hat has carked it.
On we go. The track gets overgrown with rata of all things – we bash through the bloom. This final segment is steep!
At 12:15 we are back at the river fork, and at 12:30 we are back at the car (3.5hrs from hut, 6hrs full loop – spot on with the DOC estimate). Great little tramp, surprisingly tiring considering its length! A really quick way to get a sampler of the range, but you pay for that pace with monster climbs and descents.
Seductive idea of Kapakapanui > Renata > Alpha huts crossing enters my mind.