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Tramping: Paua Hut, Tapokopoko in the Orongorongos

Tramping: Paua Hut, Tapokopoko in the Orongorongos

  • Date: 20/05/2018 – 21/05/2018
  • Party: Colin, Dan, Raj, Catherine, Jo, Theresa, Carolyn, Larry
  • Night location/s: Paua Hut

Paua Hut and Tapokopoko 20.05-21.05.2018

‘Anyone keen to lead a trip to Paua Hut? It’s booked but noone’s going’. Knocking off another Orongorongo hut seduces me more than my intended weekend activity – working – so I say ‘sure’.

As the meetup time creeps closer, storms lash the region. The Orongorongo river rises and falls, and many keen walkers fall to mysterious illness. But at about 11am eight eager trampers eventually depart Catchpool carpark, heading to Paua Hut – the Wellington Tramping and Mountaineering Club’s hut in the valley.

The crew, minus one ?? where did he go?!

We high-tail it along the Orongorongo valley track, intending to cut over Browns track and reach Paua ASAP. We want to climb up Paua ridge to Tapokopoko (843m) and daylight is in short supply. I show sterling leadership, get lost in a yarn and miss the well-hidden turn onto Browns. This is probably for the best, as we fly along and reach the Orongorongo river at 12:20.

The flow is the highest I’ve seen it, but fine to cross. We um and ahh a little, decide feet shall be wet, and do some proper river crossing practice.

River crossing skills – almost lost Raj

We wander a kilometre down stream, crossing a couple of times. We pass Boar Inn and Browns Track, then find the gravel road leading to the main 4×4 track. A quick climb and we’re at Paua (1:10pm).

Paua Hut

Paua Hut – sleeps 10

Paua Hut – gas supplied.

Paua Hut is perched on a cliff of beach trees with a great scenic outlook to the river. It was built in the 1940s? by folks at Shell – I assume they called it Paua as that’s New Zealand’s shell. Later it transferred to the Tongue and Meats, and you can book it through their website for $7 a head.

We have lunch, dump our kit and climb Paua ridge behind, prepared for the 750m climb to Tapokopoko summit. The track isn’t marked on the topo maps, but it’s a pretty clear trap line. Pink tape and triangles abound.

Some thingy.

The first 300 metres are beautiful beech forest. High quality bush shelters litter the ridge – a bushcraft course has recently been through.

Shelters low on Paua ridge

Above the beech, ground cover creeps in and the track gets more defined. It’s wet, and we slip about a bit, but no worries. We get glimpses of Wellington and the Kaikoura ranges just before we climb into the cloud.

Climbing Paua Ridge

Climbing Paua Ridge

Near the top, the last 100 metres or so of elevation, the track marking gets much less clear.

Climbing Paua Ridge

We reach the peak at 3:45pm (2hrs from Paua hut), complete with old DSIR wreckage.


We don’t wait about long, and begin the descent. We take about 1.5hrs to get down. We slip and slide and many of us sustain light injury due to boot tread getting clogged with mud, but we get down before we needed head torches thanks to the lighter cover in the lower beech forest.

Back at the hut, Catherine prepares us an absolute feast. And dessert. We have a great time playing games and whiling the evening away, retiring at 10 or there abouts. I decide to try not using my squeaky airmattress after getting flak about disturbing folks with my snoring (on a tramp I wasn’t on). It was a poor idea – I have a pretty terrible sleep. But the stars are beautiful from the window above my head, and the morning is serene (as it always is in the bush!)

We leave via Browns track and Cattle Ridge, enjoying the gradient and views of Wainui and Wellington. We leave at 9:40 and reach the carpark at 12:20 (2hr 40min).

The river, heading up Browns track

Mt Kaukau across Wellington harbour

Another great little Meetup adventure with a bit of exploration climbing Tapokopoko. Great company, and Paua Hut is in such a wonderful spot with an outlook to the river (I didn’t take a photo of!) – worth spending more time around that spot in future. Go book it yourself.

Larry's a 30-something chap interested in tramping, being a dork and changing the world via less boring training.

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