A few days ago, Sam Dawson and I went on a quick overnight mission in the Ruahines, to complete the Rangiwahia-Deadman’s Loop.
Arriving at the Rangiwahia carpark, we were disappointed to find there were seven cars already parked. It was kind of our own fault, a Friday night, and work commitments meant that we did not get there until 8:30pm. Then we did the math: seven cars, carrying two people each, means 14 people in a 13-bunk hut – cosy. Ordinarily, I would not have really cared, cruised up, and slept on the veranda, but Rangiwahia hut has a type of snow-shedding deck that would be particularly uncomfortable to sleep on. The prospect of fumbling around at 11pm, trying to find a space on the floor of the hut was equally unappealing and so we came up with a new plan.
Fortunately, I had chucked my awesome Macpac Minaret tent into the back of the car, just in case the hut was full. Rather than camp next to the hut, which seemed a bit boring, we decided to do the Rangiwahia-Deadman’s loop in reverse, camping up around the tarns below Mangahuia. Equipped with the faithful Minaret and a few extra bottles of water, we headed off, up the hill and into the clouds.
It was dark as we broke the rugged bushline and entered the cloud, about 10pm. Walking with a headlamp in the dark and in the cloud is never very easy. It is a bit like driving on a foggy night with your headlights on full. What made this evening a little bit more challenging was the fact that we were following a poled route, which meant that the footpath was not always immediately discernible beneath the heavy tussocks. We fumbled along and fell into a bit of mud, but worked well as a team to stay on track. With the aid of the GPS, we were able to locate the tarns without too much difficulty and, around 10:30pm, found a small ledge on which to pitch our tent.
I was grateful to have found the site so quickly. I have been a bit unwell lately and was feeling rather fatigued. With the tent pitched, we scoffed down a bit of dark chocolate, tried to fill in and around the lumps and dips beneath the tent with clothes, and hit the lights for a good night’s sleep.
We awoke around 7:30am to cold, strong winds and heavy cloud. Fortunately, the cloud would momentarily clear, affording us amazing on-top-of-the-cloud views. It was stunning. The tent was beautifully warm, however, and we both sat inside, eating our breakfast between quick dashes outside, to take photos and to answer texts from concerned loved-ones.
After a leisurely couple of hours of eating and chatting, the cloud had set in and we decided to explore the area, checking out the other, nearby tarns. It was beautiful walking through the heavy, damp cloud; the landscape, shrouded and mysterious, unfolding before us, revealing deep pools of fresh, cold water. Reaching the edge of the plateau area, we decided to head back to the tent for a cup of tea.
A few brews later, we decided to head out. The wind had died down now and the day was warming up. It felt like the cloud was about to burn off, giving us the views that we were waiting for. We packed up the tent and our gear, heading up the track towards Mangahuia by 11:30am.
Sure enough, just as we approached the final grunt up to the peak of Mangahuia, the cloud cleared and we were presented with amazing views of the ranges and surrounding country side.
Although it was only 12pm, the view was a bit too good to pass up, and so we decided to sit down (again!) and have some lunch. It was blissful, sitting in the sun, enjoying such a beautiful day. The breeze swept through the tussocks, keeping us cool. There is something particularly restful about being on the tops on a good day. I always come away feeling recharged, and privileged at being able to access them.
It was here, as we ate and relaxed, that the trip’s twin themes became increasingly evident: leisurely breaks and a food-orientation. After a long, 30min lunch stop, we headed down Mangahuia, along the gently rolling ridge, towards Rangiwahia Hut. We passed a few hunters and day-walkers along the way, reaching the hut by 1:30pm. In keeping with the trip’s theme, we took another 30min break at the hut, enjoying the last view-filled moments as the cloud set in once more, between boiled eggs and mouthfuls of dark chocolate.
Reluctant to finish the track, but needing to get home, we made a good pace down the hill. We did not go so fast as to forego the beauty of our surrounds, however. We paused at the waterfall, enjoyed the varied flora, and spent a bit of time perched above the Rangiwahia’s beautifully bridged gully – the track has much to offer.
Satisfactorily tired, we arrived back at the car by 4pm, grateful for the trip, but already planning the next one.
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