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Hawke’s Bay Ridge, Ruahine Forest Park

Image of the February 2020 Wilderness Magazine Cover Read more from the
February 2020 Issue

Topped out in the Bay

You won’t find ‘Hawke’s Bay Ridge’ on any modern topo maps, but local trampers know and use the name. It was likely coined by tramper, botanist and mapmaker extraordinaire, Norman Elder (1896–1974).

Elder began his tramping in Wellington, but shifted to Hawke’s Bay in 1931. He co-founded the Heretaunga Tramping Club, explored and mapped the Hawke’s Bay mountains, and introduced many schoolboys from Hereworth College to the hills. It was in his Route Guide to the Ranges West of Hawke’s Bay (1959) that I first saw a reference to the ‘Hawke’s Bay Ridge’.

The ridge is about 7km long, connecting Iron Peg on the Hikurangi Range with Ohuinga on the main Ruahine Range, and provides exhilarating tops travel, with a few tarns en route, and enough challenge to keep you on your toes (including one narrow cheval-like section).

A superb option in good weather is to circumnavigate the tops around the entire Pourangaki catchment, which combines the Hawke’s Bay Ridge with the Sawtooth Ridge, and Te Hekenga – other notably rugged parts of the park. Purity and Kelly Knight Huts provide accommodation, but you’ll need a tent too. Many superb tarn-side camping places exist en route.

Elder probably named the ridge because it provides a high-level connection from the west to the Hawke’s Bay side of the Ruahine Range in the east. Perhaps one day someone will get his name officially recognised on modern maps.

Total Ascent
Maungakukeke Road to Purity Hut, 3hr; To Ohuinga, 4hr; To Kelly Knight Hut via Te Hekenga, 7-8hr; To road end, 3hr
Purity Hut ($5, six bunks), Kelly Knight Hut ($5, eight bunks)
To complete the circuit of the Pourangaki catchment, start from Maungakukeke Road end – permission is required to cross private farmland, see DOC website for details

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