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September 2013 Issue
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Dundas before dark

A brief break in the clag reveals Dundas Hut at bottom left of photo
Putara to Herepai Hut, 2hr; Herepai Hut to Dundas Hut, 5-7hr; Dundas Hut to Cattle Ridge Hut, 4-5hr; Cattle Ridge Hut to Roaring Stag Lodge, 1.5-2hr; Roaring Stag Lodge to Putara 2-2.5hr
Herepai Hut (10 bunks), Dundas Hut (six bunks), Cattle Ridge Hut (five bunks), Roaring Stag Lodge (12 bunks)
Putara Road End

Dundas Hut, Tararua Forest Park

It’s hard to get my cousin George to come tramping. If he’s not busy at work, he’s busy at home bringing up his two-year-old son Osiris. So when he does get the opportunity to get away for a night, I like to organise a tramp that packs as much bang for its buck as possible. The weather forecast was looking good so a Dundas–Cattle Ridge loop trip was planned.

We got away late and it was after 10am by the time we reached Putara road end. Being the end of April, the daylight hours were short, so it was going to be a solid effort to reach Dundas Hut before dark.

Even though I have a lot more experience than George, being fifteen years my junior put him at an advantage and he raced up the day’s first climb. But I know my pace and what the day has in store for us, so I let him take off, eventually catching him at the Herepai/Roaring Stag junction.

We passed a few hunters along the way but with the roar nearing an end we hoped not to see too many more. Just to be safe I made sure to wear a hi-viz shirt. We reached Herepai Hut in good time for the day’s first brew and looking out the hut window toward East Peak and Haukura Ridge showed clear tops and a good time on Dundas Ridge looked to be the order of the day.

The climb to Herepai (1125m) then Ruapae (1279m) is a particularly tough one. George and Gilly the dog really put the pace on me. Pausing on Ruapae we heard a stag roaring somewhere down in Harris Creek.

We navigated the tricky eroded section on the climb up to East Peak and once there soaked in the fantastic views of the northern Tararua Range. The deep saddle between East and West Peak is a well documented killer but from there the climb along Dundas Ridge to Walker is a joy.

But it seems like a clear day on the tops isn’t to be. A pea soup clag rolled in from the Tasman, obscuring all but a few feet of visibility. Typical Tararua weather.

The ridge around Pukemoremore has a few rocky outcrops which we carefully negotiated.

We enjoy a few breaks in the clag to enjoy fantastic vistas of the Kapiti coast, but it was getting cold and we were relieved to finally reach the turn-off to Dundas Hut.

The hut can be easily missed in bad weather or darkness. The sun sets not long after our arrival but the clag lifted and after dinner we enjoyed a bit of star gazing, trying to work out as many constellations as we could until the cold mountain air forced us inside for an early night.

We awoke to a clear day, though the nor’wester seemed to have really picked up. We regained the spur above Dundas Hut and followed it to a stream where we pick up a sidle track along its true left, following it for half an hour to a crossing of the Ruamahanga River. From there, a brutal climb onto Cattle Ridge ensued and it seemed the enthusiasm George displayed the previous day had finally taken its toll.

The climb is extremely steep and once out of the cover of the bush the wind pummeled us, seemingly threatening to blow us back down to the Ruamahanga at any moment. The last few hundred metres of climbing were up an eroded face and we are relieved to finally arrive on top of the ridge, even though we are still at the mercy of the nor’wester until Cattle Ridge Hut.

Once on the leeward side of the ridge, the wind disappears but the descent to Roaring Stag Lodge it is still a knee cruncher.

From the Lodge, the tramp to the car park was easy, though we are a weary duo. Even Gilly was looking a little worse for wear.

– Nathan Bellamy