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March 2012 Issue
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A misty journey to Auckland’s highest peak

Photo: Josh Gale
7-8hr walking time
Off East Coast Rd, a few hundred metres north of Waihihi Bay, turn into the entrance of the park and head inland past the information office and over two cattle stops. Go straight ahead until the road bends to the left
Topo50 BB33
Kohukohunui Peak, Waharau Regional Park, Auckland

Respectable summits are in short supply in the Auckland region and when compared to peaks around the country the ones it does have seem more like mounds than mountains.

This is why I wasn’t too enthusiastic about doing the Waharau-Kohukohunui-Mangatangi-Waharau loop trip on the eastern Hunua Range and ‘bagging’ Auckland’s highest summit: 688m Kohukohunui peak.

The group met at Waharau Regional Park’s Blackberry Flats Campground on Friday night. By the time I arrived it was dark so when I woke in the morning I was pleasantly surprised to find sheep grazing nearby.

For Aucklanders the sight of sheep signals that we’ve left the boundaries of the city and passed into the hinterland, a feeling usually accompanied by a subtle relaxation of the muscles.

The often overlooked Hunua Ranges lie just on the edge of this imaginary boundary, offering a refreshing wilderness experience without a big drive into the whops.

We set off up Waharau Ridge Track towards Kohukohunui Track and Thousand Acre Clearing. Mist gradually settled around us as we climbed the gentle gradient toward the track junction and along with low cloud cover the scenery and views were soon concealed behind a thick grey curtain.

On the way upwards I noticed many pig wallows and diggings. One of our party mentioned he’d heard hunters are continuing to release pigs into the Hunua Ranges and then supposedly hunt them later.

On this overnight trip I spotted just five birds. There were several rat traps on the side of the tracks, but only one had a dead rat inside, the rest untouched boiled eggs.

The bad weather continued and rain started shortly after we arrived at our overnight campsite which lies directly on the track about 20 to 30 minutes before Adams Campground and Lookout.

This campground is more sheltered from the wind than the Adams Campground and has a battered, seedy and doorless long drop that’s standing at an odd angle and is hidden in bush. However, good flat areas for tents is scarce here, whereas the Adam’s Campground has better sites and better views as it’s slightly above the bushline.

We camped under tarps and after a fairly uncomfortable night continued the tramp towards Kohukohunui in miserable weather.

The climb remained relatively gentle, but overgrowth on the section from Adams Campground to the summit trig sometimes obscured the track and at one point made us go off course.

Shortly before the summit is the unmarked Trig K Hut, a primitive corrugated iron affair that I was told scientists occasionally use when visiting to take air samples. Cold wind and rain made us duck into its dark and dingy interior for a bite to eat and to warm up.

Finally, when we reached the summit, we found the Auckland Regional Council had recently built a new viewing platform. We looked at it from the ground and admired its height and sturdiness. One person climbed the vertical ladder up into the clouds just so he could say he’s done it.

With the rain getting heavier and the cold wind blowing we were all keen to drop down from the summit so our walk down to the Mangatangi Ridge Track was fast. I even jogged sections until I slipped and hurt my ankle.

Eventually we came to Thousand Acre Campground which is located towards the Waharau Ridge Track end of Mangatangi Ridge Track. The campground also has a three-sided dirt floor shelter that we used to cook lunch in. This is a nice spot with a stream running nearby and the area surrounded by a stand of beech trees.

From here we crossed back onto Waharau Ridge Track and made it back to the cars an hour or so later.

Even though the elevation profile of this trip is relatively gentle compared to real peak bagging tracks around other parts of the country, the trip did challenge me and the rest of the group.

Over a fine weekend the trip is a perfect for Aucklanders wanting to take in some stunning sea views, but who don’t want to drive beyond the Bombays.