Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Climbing Mt Kuripapango

Two posts in one day, you're getting spoilt!

At 1250 metres, Mt Kuripapango is one of the babies in the Kaweka Ranges although the taller peaks shown on the information board maps aren’t that much higher. I decided to see how far up Mt Kuripapango I could manage, it looked pretty steep and I wasn’t too sure how my fitness would stand up to climbing but decided to go as far as I was comfortable with and at least to the first little peak so I could see the view.

The track leaves from the Cameron Carpark which is just a short walk from camp. I’m rewarded with a small swing bridge across a stream not far from the trailhead and then the track follows the Ngaruroro River for a short distance before branching off on the Mt Kuripapango walk.

Before I start the climb (because you really can’t call it a walk) I follow the base track along the river nearly to it’s end; this is where I find a guy fly fishing. Just me, him and the wilderness. I feel a bit voyeuristic watching him from afar and because I don’t want to disturb him by bursting out onto the gravel beach to check out the river, I decide to turn around and head back to the track junction.

Immediately I’m thrown in the deep end and can see that this is going to be tough going, the track leads up and through loose scree slopes, some just exposed clay where the cascading rain water has washed everything away. Funnily enough it’s not as hard work as I think. I just take my time finding plenty of rock and root foot holds and small trunks to haul myself up with. All the while making sure that I have my camera securely tucked under my arm and the neck strap on.

There are plenty of opportunities to stop and take in the views (and catch a breath). This is looking up the river and now you can see the fisherman on the gravel bank on the other side of the river at the end. The structure & wire across the river that you can see in the foreground belongs to a flying fox. The platform was secured on the other side. I’m not sure who it belongs to or what it’s purpose is as there’s nothing to indicate it around the small concrete tower. Maybe it’s to haul communication/power gear for a tower or pylons atop the mountain on the other side?

This is looking back over the river valley and the way I’ve come, you can see the swing bridge in the bottom left of the photo and a motorhome pulling into the DOC campground road at the back left. The campground is along the road and off the end of the right hand side.

I steadily climb higher and higher, resting often and taking in the amazing views. The fisherman has crossed the river again in this shot.

And now you can see the track I’ve been following which levelled out for a short distance after climbing up to the first small peak on the ridge. You can now also see at the back right, part of the ‘Gentle Annie’, the narrow winding and steep road that takes you up onto the Central Plateau.

And here’s a close up of the ‘Gentle Annie’ cutting it’s way up the Kaweka Range. It actually doesn’t look too bad from this position. And look at all those rogue pinus contorta growing on the hillside above camp. That land forms the inside of the Kuripapango Oxbow, the river flow around it forming a tight loop.

The climbing is getting tougher but there are still plenty of hand and foot holds and I carefully make sure I have a rock solid foot hold before pulling myself up- it’s the coming down again that now has me worried.

My camera’s starting to get in the way so I put it in my pack and pull it out whenever I get to a level area with a view to take photos….which is often as the views in all directions are now spectacular. If you look carefully you can still see the swing bridge. It might not look it but I feel like I’m miles above the river.

With nobody to take a photo of me up there, I take a selfie with my mobile. I think I need to get myself a selfie stick!

I decide to press on to the next point on the ridge and then make the decision whether to climb any further. The going is a little tougher up this part as it’s right on the ridge spine with a big drop on one side, and the gravel is also very loose. A couple of times I slip and thank my lucky stars that I had put my camera away.

Finally I make it onto the top of the peak I was aiming for and now the views are amazing. I can see a long way up the river before it disappears around a corner and further into the range.

But the most impressive sight of all is the tiny oxbow below me, at the base of Mt Te Manihi. The river may look pretty benign with it’s thin and shallow ribbon of water and the land in the middle just a small hill but don’t be fooled, I’m a long way up. I’d love to be up here when the river was in full flood, going by the debris, I’ve seen, caught in the trees metres inland, it would be wall to wall water around this oxbow.

I sit on the rocks taking in the 360 degree views, I can’t quite see out over Hawkes Bay but behind me are rows and rows of the Kaweka Forest pine trees and I can hear the faint sound of a chainsaw followed by a earth shaking thud as trees are felled not too far away.

The summit of Mt Kuripapango is the second peak from the right but I decide to call it quits and head back down, the wind is blowing a gale now on the ridge and the temperature has dropped considerably. The summit is still quite a distance away, the track drops down and along another exposed ridge after this first peak and I can see through my camera zoom that the track is very steep towards the end. I’m happy I got this far and got to see the wonderful views.

Once again I take my time on the way down which is way harder on my legs and feet than going up. I only had one little fright when my foot caught under an exposed root on a steep bit and I tripped forward. Luckily I was holding a sapling for balance and managed to halt my fall. I had visions of broken toes or sliding to the bottom of the rocky slope on my face.

I took a close up shot of the map and marked with a red cross where I climbed to. It actually doesn’t look too far on here but believe me it was a steady and reasonably tough climb. You can also see the smaller oxbow that I saw from the top and the larger Kuripapango Oxbow and campground at the bottom left. And middle right are The Lakes, where we walked to the other day.

I may just get David to drop me at the The Lakes carpark one day so I can climb to the top of Mt Kuripapango from that direction and then walk back along the ridge and down. We’ll see….


  1. Great effort with the assent to the top, with the appropriate rewarding views, hiking alone is wonderful but has it's dangers, perhaps a selfie, doubling walking pole would be of benefit.

    1. Now that's a good idea Jimu! But then how would I hold my camera? :) But you are right & after our walk up the river, a walking pole has been added to the 'must get' list.


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