Carol, Jenny and Alan, members of the Mt Egmont Alpine Club based in Hawera, Taranaki, headed for a winter expedition into the Kaimanawas. The weather had cleared during the week after a snowfall and looked like staying crisp and cool all weekend. With big packs, including two tents, iceaxes and crampons, the going up Mt Urchin (just off the Desert Road) was slower than we anticipated but the view from the top of Urchin (1392m) was inspiring. We discovered dry powder snow in all the south facing slopes of mountains around us. The hour's travel across the top was very pleasant. Then we had a steep drop down into the Waipakihi Valley. Here the frost put feathery crystals on top of the powder, just beautiful. The Waipakihi had snow and frost unmelted in the shade and we had to cross the river. Moving up the true left bank the route was a bit tangly in places but we located the start of the track up Motutere. We then trudged up the steep spur, it was tough going with our heavy loads but the beech forest track was delightful, with relief we reached the small clearing we were aiming for. Two tents was a tight fit.
Alan and Jenny went to fetch some water, from a small stream just on the bushline, about another 10mins away while I did domestic duties at the camp. Hot food and bed at 7pm was welcome after a long day. More than 12 hours of darkness in winter does not mean a good nights sleep, fortunately we were warm in good sleeping bags.
Day Two: After a hearty breakfast the three of us headed uphill once more, feet warming slowly. We all climbed Motutere, then Jenny and Alan plodded off with sites set on Karikaringa, at 1694m. I found a small plateau to take photos and relax in pleasant conditions then headed back to camp to wait for the others. My time was fulled in with more domestic duties like dishes and water collecting etc, this was a welcome arrival for Jenny and Alan after their big day. The sunset through the beech trees was pretty good, the warm glow matching our mood.
Day Three: Yet another fine day dawned as we packed up for the walk out, trying to convince ourselves the packs felt lighter. Once again the Waipakihi valley was riddled with frost formations. Clambering up the track onto Urchin tops, signs of change were in the air, with cloud rolling through Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro. Conversation about everything under the sun seemed to quicken the journey, we were all more than ready for a hot shower when we arrived at the car at 3pm. Quick showers at Turangi and then back to Taranaki with a Pizza Hut pig out at Wanganui.
A magical trip, so lucky with the weather, which has given us the bug for more of the Kaimanawas.