Our top of the topo’s project is a device to get us into areas we wouldn’t normally consider. A week’s annual leave means time available to do a long drive. Some summits are mediocre in height but rewarding in topography and botany. Hoary Head certainly delivered but Hailes Knob – not so much.
Our access to these peaks was via a forestry block on Mt Campbell overlooking Motueka. Frank did a fair amount of googling to reveal where the locked gate was. This spared us from a 600 m altitude walk up a clay-based forestry road. As we drove up the road in the dark looking for a place to pitch our tent, potential campsites seemed mighty boney and footprints minimal. At the final bend before the gate, fine silt from run-off had formed a level campsite for us. I also remembered I had a large bag of cleaning rags for the charity bin so lined the tent floor with these to soften the ground.
During the night a 4WD Chorus vehicle passed through from working on the mast at Mt Campbell. We passed a comfortable night, serenaded by a morepork. In the morning a fuchsia by our tent was repeatedly visited by an intent tui. Other birds abounded in the beech forest. We readied our packs and began trudging up the road which was in good order for the various communications maintenance vehicles. After the locked gate, we passed a derelict shack fit only for the birds that flew in and out the ajar door. I kept my eye out for water and wet my head plus having a drink at several opportunities then there were no more.
Just before the final climb to the summit, mercifully via a nicely benched road we were passed by a white 4WD. Not long after we arrived at the summit to find they were repairing an aerial for air traffic control communications. Goodbye to the road and hello to the scrub. Fortunately the locals must be keen on going further to Hoary Head because there was a definite little trail to follow to the next high point, 1261. Some altruistic soul had even done some track work through the beech forest on the saddle and marked it with pink cruise tape.
Beyond this point things weren’t so clear. We cast about and poked around, then decided to follow the edge of the beech forest where there seemed to be a trail heading gently down to the next low point. Soon we pushing our way through a short lasting patch of unpleasant head- high coprosmas then back into the beech forest where we saw a blue plastic tie tagging a sapling. Frank was keen to avoid any unnecessary rise along the ridge that drops to the saddle so went more down the slope which was a good thing because we crossed 2 seepages indicating the first available water we had seen. This was close to where we intended to camp that evening after climbing Hailes Knob.
However immediately after the seepage I was very perturbed to find bright green 1080 pellets on our way up to our lunch spot – Point 1195. Would the water be safe? I recalled hearing water breaks down the poison very quickly and had never heard of people dying from 1080 poisoning from drinking water where they’d been spread. I’d seen 6 baits only on the 160 m ascent and they were easy to spot. Nowhere else would be free from the poison in the vicinity. Still 1080 poisoning is a horrible way to die, this put a dampener on my thoughts. I shared the find with Frank.
Our lunch spot was pretty, spread with muhlenbeckia and other cushioning plants though I did get a couple of ant bites. We stashed our overnight gear under rocks and set off north for Hailes Knob. Navigation would be tricky as the map showed poorly defined spurs darting off in a few directions but Frank had a GPS. It updated slowly though in the beech forest so at one stage he overshot the turn-off point where he’d planned to avoid a slight rise but he corrected this with a sudden change of direction. From there on the humpy ridge was easy to follow. I wasn’t carrying a map as I don’t have this particular one so he considerately stopped to allow me to have a look at his map to see from hereon there was only height gain over 2 points of 1130 m. The ridge between these 2 points looked deceptively level but proved to be undulating to the full 19 m allowed, I’m sure.
After a while I realized we had been shoving our way through scrubby stuff on a narrow goat trail. In the process, my front bag had unzipped and I lost the contents – 2 pairs of gloves, a collapsible drink bottle and some expensive jerky I’ve been lugging around for several months. The bag had never accidently unzipped before but this was not too serious as the weather was going to be pretty mild though there was a possibility of rain.
The scrub opened up into shorter stuff. In the distance we could see beech forest carpeting the summit of Hailes Knob. We were soon at this disappointing summit in a little grassy clearing unfortunately ringed by trees obscuring the view from most angles. Frank told me about a tramping club party who’d climbed up from farmland in the west, and headed east back to the low scrub for a good view. So off we went. Tristan Riley, who is a hard-arse type, had done a traverse along the Arthur Range from Takaka Hill. The photos of the section to here showed nasty marble pinnacles and plenty of scratchy scrub. Rather him than me.
We set off back to where we’d stashed our gear. On the way, Frank spotted the lid of my bottle and soon after the rest of the contents minus one overmitt. Right to this spot, we’d come via a more subtle animal trail. Frank attempted to find it with the naughty GPS constantly changing our location and eventually tracked it down. Further along we came upon the missing overmitt. On the final climb to point 1195, we were both getting a bit tired. It was one foot after another. We retrieved our gear, packed it up and reviewed our options, deciding to camp on the nearby saddle near the seepage. We returned to the seepage and followed it down the hill until it gave us a trickle where we could fill our bottles. This was only about 10 m away from where we’d crossed it. I’d taken a 3 L wine bag in a plastic carrier bag for this purpose.
Now for a level site. Do we camp right on the saddle where it is flattest but more windy or a bit further down where it is more sheltered? We opted for the saddle as we had plenty of warm clothing to counter any breeze. We pitched the tent on a bit of a foot trail providing flat ground free of sub canopy vegetation. A cluster of wide trunks of tall trees right next to this afforded shelter from the wind for our cooking/dining area. Overnight, a male kiwi called along with many moreporks. In the morning I noticed someone else liked to camp at this very spot as we discovered a blue tarp stored under a fallen tree and rope used to construct a framework that was now coming apart. Frank rigged his orange tarp to this to alert us of our own gear stashed alongside for when we returned from climbing Hoary Head.
We set off beyond point 1195 to climb Hoary Head. From the Hailes Knob trip our view had shown the first step up the mountain looking a bit scrubby. It would be important to detect and follow any animal trails through this. Just before the climb up this step, we noticed a large cairn. The attractive trail was obvious and intermittently flagged at crucial points, so easily followed. It led into more open beech forest, sometimes sidling to avoid ugly stuff on the ridge. Once in the open we headed to higher ground. Someone had built a big cairn here to mark the descent point. I placed a couple of white limestone rocks on greyer outcrops as an indicator of our route back into the forest.
We headed up to the obvious high point. On the way I found a spectacular black-budded forget-me-not. At the cairn Frank informed me this was not the summit according to the map so we headed off to another cairned summit a 100 m distant. It was lower than even the surrounding land. There were a couple of dark rocks amid the ubiquitous - in fact only rock here – weathered marble. Frank in his pedantry wanted to go to where the topomap summit was so off we trudged. While he counted the angels on the head of his pin, I noticed the mother lode of this dark rock, a partly shattered boulder. I opined it might be a meteorite as it was unique and lying cast on the ground, not from any bedrock we could see. We souvenired a few shards – not too big because this obviously ferrous oxidized rock was heavy.
We could see murk covering the summit of Mt Campbell indicating the possibility of rain was not too remote. We took a more direct route back to our descent point. My white rocks were visible from afar. While pussyfooting around above the outcrop with Frank taking photos, I saw more forget-me-nots so Frank photographed them as I wanted to confirm what they were called. We followed the track back down and set off along the ridge, over Point 1195 back to the campsite for lunch and a hot drink.
As we finished our lunch and began to pack up, small spots of rain materialized. Frank impressed on me the need to stick to the higher ground on our climb back up to Point 1261 to ensure we could find a trail on the crest of the spur. The idea was that following this would bypass the coprosma section. My thoughts exactly. We were soon at the blue plastic tag and I was entrusted to be put in front to follow the subtle trail that ensued to our right of this tag. Each time the trail bifurcated, I chose to stay in the low scrub near to the beech forest margin and eventually gained the ridge just south of the summit of Point 1261. A bit of rain had us putting on jackets but just enough to make us realize we’d need to take them off again fairly soon after that.
We followed the cut trail through the bush at the saddle until I dropped my guard and realized we were no longer on it, being too far over the ridge onto the south-east side. So I pushed back across to the trail and regained it. On the summit of Mt Campbell we stopped to shelter behind some industrial building by the radio mast to have a snack and a drink, admiring the potential for kea mayhem with the lavish use of polystyrene and other insulation material. By now it was sunny again for our stomp back down the road to the car.
Once back home, I confirmed the forget-me-not as being myosotis arnoldii. My botanizing colleague hopes to go see it next year as it is quite rare. As for the 'meteorite'...well, it's magnetic and when filed down is the colour of steel so maybe, maybe not. Whatever it is, goodness knows how it got there anyway.