Sunday, 27 May 2012

Tramping the Lake Dive Loop

Date: 25-27 May, 2012

Punters: Anthony, Craig, John, Paul, Rebecca and Tommy from the Wellington Tramping & Mountaineering Club.

 

I had signed up to lead a trip on Queens Birthday weekend, so after a few years of ultra-distance cycling and not much tramping I thought it best to remember how to walk beforehand. After an ever changing list of punters due to withdrawals (including the assigned trip leader whom I replaced in a bloodless coup) and late entries, six of us met on another WTMC tramping trip that began with introductions as we made our way up to Taranaki where we stayed at the DOC managed Konini Lodge with unusual tramping luxuries including hot showers.

 

Throughout the weekend, the expression of outlandish theories on how to resolve the issue of New Zealand's immigrant Brushtail Possum population dominated the conversation. Suggestions by the Australian member of our party that Brushtail Possums in New Zealand were not fatter than Brushtail Possums in the western isles were soon resolved when an over fed specimen was perfectly lined up under headlights by Paul - until he showed more mercy via the brake pedal to the possum than the possum will itself provide to our native flora. Needless to say as many theories around possible biological, genetic and birth controls were found to be flawed and thus quickly dismissed in the manner as any poorly thought-out conspiracy theory.

Mt Taranaki and Fanthams Peak
Mt Taranaki and Fanthams Peak

 

We rose on Saturday to a clear day with perfect visibility to the snow covered peaks of Fanthams Peak and Mt Taranaki. There are people who visit Taranaki many times without seeing the mountain, so with half our party having never been here were lucky to see a great view of mountain.

 

By sight the Upper Lake Dive Track looked only marginally affected by snow, but after talking with DOC staff before leaving I was advised of the possibility of gullies filled with refrozen snow. I took my ice-axe a precaution to make some big foot-holes if such an eventuality made any members of our party uncomfortable..

 

Sir Edmund Hillary Memorial
Sir Edmund Hillary Memorial
Hooker Shelter
Hooker Shelter

 

Stairs leading towards Upper Lake Dive Track & Fanthams Peak
Stairs leading towards Upper Lake Dive Track & Fanthams Peak

 

 


Our tramp began with the steady, often staircased climb past Hooker Shelter and Kapuni Lodge to the junction of the Upper Lake Dive track and the track to Fanthams Peak. During this steady climb we could see a group in the distance trying to cross a gully filled with firm snow on their way toward Fanthams Peak. With this observation any prior thoughts of dropping our packs for an optional side trip to higher ground quickly evaporated.

 

A little way above the track junction to Kapuni Lodge we met another party coming down the mountain who kindly offered some advice. It is often hard to assess the quality of advice provided by other parties when you briefly meet for 45 seconds or so. There is after all a continuum of advice received in such circumstances ranging from never leave the house paranoia to quality advice all the way through to the she'll be right gung-ho. Therefore it is of course useful to assess how any advice provided might apply to your own party or trip. On this occasion I was advised of treacherous snow and ice filled gullies, "People have here died you know", and that I would drown the survivors in the streams when returning on the lower track with some rain in the forecast.

While I appreciated their concern, the lack of snow and dry streams did suggest that of absurdly paranoid advice. My grandfather once told me you tell a lot a about person by looking at their shoes. Whilst I couldn't care less weather their boots had been freshly polished I did note that while they had nice shiny gear, they were currently walking on dirt in crampons having just walked down wooden steps that had neither ice or  snow covering then. I thanked them for their advice and that I was aware that there were showers in the forecast and continued on to Lake Dive.

 






We had no wind and mostly clear clear conditions across the Upper Lake Dive Track. There were some small pockets of soft snow and certainly no ice or hard snow. The track offered views across to inland Taranaki farmland "Somewhere" and overlooking the native forest surrounding Mt Taranaki. There are few places that show possum damage to the forest as evidently as here with numerous skeletons of solid native trees that now have neither foliage nor life.

 

Having not been tramping of late I could feel my knees a little after what is an easy descent down to Lake Dive Hut. On arrival we met a group of students who were using this tramp toward their Duke of Edinborough awards. While they were doing there homework we began playing the cardgame "Hearts". Seeing the Duke of Edinborough students studying their maps and recalling what they passed through during the day did make me think an easy trip using this approach could be an alternative method of delivering the clubs Bushcraft courses.

 

Our epic battle over cards was temporarily interrupted by more important things - our stomachs. A minor crisis was averted with some surgery performed with the help of Anthony to recover the fuel hose which detached from the fuel pump of my primus into the the middle of the full fuel bottle. Once reattached we set about getting on with the meal. We all had a collection of ingredients assigned to us by trip leader Paula (absent), and whilst Paul, flatmate of Paula lived in the same house as Paula he hadn't a clue as to the recipe. A fine team effort was co-ordinated to create a fine meal of satay noodles which was gratefully consumed by all.

 

As our card game resumed, the DoE students began playing "the famous person game" and become more and more boisterous. No matter how much sugar we ate via our oversupply of chocolate biscuits we were simply unable to compete both in decibels and pitch. Some funny lines were heard which I am sure we can credit the students as providing solely for the means of our entertainment:

"Is the fire on?" "No, the fire is going. You can't just turn it on"

and

"Invented the iPod" "Isaac Newton"

errr, I think Mr Newton was inspired by a different apple!

 

As the students suddenly ran out of sugar and disappeared to bed promptly, the lack of background noise and distractions made the game ever the more tense. Once Paul completed his convincing win while subtly hiding in the corner and not bringing any attention to himself we soon followed suit.

 

During the night, a gale westerly came up with the express purpose of proving to us that Lake Dive Hut is in fact, very securely fastened to its foundations.

 


 



 

With the arrival of daylight we timed our exit of the hut perfectly. It started to rain the moment we stepped out the door. The track appeared to have a lot of recent maintenance and was nowhere near as muddy as I recalled from a previous visit. Without the warmth of the sunshine, we walked faster, rested less and made good time back to Dawson Falls via the Lake Dive Lower Track. Thoughts of extending the trip around the Dawson Falls loop walk were quickly dashed with the kind offer of a hot shower at Konini Lodge.

 

Driving home
Driving home

2 comments :

  1. "There are few places that show possum damage to the forest as evidently as here with numerous skeletons of solid native trees that now have neither foliage nor life."

    That was what I thought when I saw it at first, but having spoken with a local Taranaki harriers' member who's spent lots of time running around and over the mountain for several decades, there also seemed to be a view that much of it went back to skeletons left by Cyclone Bola in 1988. I've never confirmed this in an authoritative way but it's made me think twice about whether it's entirely possums.

    Rabbits are another big pest around Taranaki. Drive up to North Egmont at 5am and you'll see squillions of them racing back and forth around the road.

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  2. Mike, that sounds more likely to be a story spread by the anti-1080 poisoning of possums lobby. It is far more likely that damage from Cyclone Bola resulted in stripped foliage in the storm followed by re-sprouting. Unfortunately the re-sprouting will have been like sweet tasting honey for the local possum population.

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