Ascent of Tapuae-o-Uenuku on 2015-01-12

Climber: Rob Woodall

Others in Party:Petter Bjørstad

Pål Bjørstad
Date:Monday, January 12, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
    Location:New Zealand
    Elevation:9465 ft / 2884 m

Ascent Trip Report

The day after our Skippers Range Highpoint ascent is a travel day. We drive north, enjoying a nice clear view of Mount Cook en route, dropping Adrian Rayner at Christchurch airport for his flight home. Continuing north we find a motel at the very small town of Ward, seemingly the last one before Blenheim, and 20km before the turnoff to the trailhead, just about the ideal location, with a bar restaurant a short way back along the road serving meals until 9pm.

Next morning we continue NW along SH1 to Awatere Valley Road (S41.64517 E174.07322, signposted) where we turn L. It's paved for 10km then intermittently unpaved / paved, crossing the main river after about 35km and arriving at the Hodder Bridge trailhead in another (convoluted) 20km (S41.88512 E173.64048, 467m, parking on L after suspension bridge; toilet). There are several sections of "New sealed" - looks like the whole stretch could be paved before too long.

From the car park we walk across the cattle stop then fork L onto a farm track, passing a barn. The track contours high above the Hodder River (becomes a small trail through scrub for a while) then at a large cairn S41.90110 E173.66515 613m we take a trail L descending 50m steeply down to the river. The river is crossed repeatedly (between calf and knee depth after a prolonged dry spell): we hike in trail shoes, keeping our boots dry for Tappy tomorrow. The gorge opens out into bouldery flats; then another gorge; we keep L on the Hodder at S41.94010 E173.65210 813m where the Trail Stream joins from our R. At S41.95261 E173.65435 1010m a large cairn points the way uphill to our L where a steep trail gains 150m then makes a nice contouring line, crosses 2 small streams then gently descends 30m to regain the river above a waterfall. Boulder hopping to the R (true L) bank we follow a trail which leads to the two huts (S41.97078 E173.63713, 1425m), which are situated on a grassy shingle bank high above the river, a very nice spot. We're here in 6h30 from the trail head. Times recorded in the Hut Book tend to be 5hrs upwards. Tappy is quite often done as a 2 day climb, ie Day 1 / pm to hut, Day 2 early start, summit and pm return to trailhead.

Our hike in to the hut involved 15.6km (GPS) of which 3.7km is on track and trail to the river, 9.2km is along the river bed, and the final 2.7km is on trail. 66 times we either crossed the river or walked along in it. The minimum requirement, making use of trails and easy scrambles, appears to be 54 crossings of the Hodder, one of the Trail Stream plus 3 times where it's necessary to walk in the river without needing to cross. However it's often easier to cross the river than to find the dryshod route. And it would be different with more water in the river. Some have recorded as many as 80 or even 90 crossings.

Late pm a group of six Aussies arrive having taken the track up from Gladstone Station (Mount Gladstone on map) then via Trail Stream and the Hodder. They take the other hut.

Next morning we set off at 0620, leaving axes and crampons in the hut as an evening recce to the Fork indicated there was hardly any snow up there. This was an OK call although the descent gullies tend to hold snow late even in a low-snow season such as this one.

Following the trail from the hut up the grass and across a scree slope we boulder hop the Hodder River and Staircase Stream close together at a large cairn. A good trail leads upwards, steeply then more gently as it stays above (L of) Staircase Stream, crossing several tributaries, the last of which is crossed below a waterfall. Filling bottles here we follow the trail upwards. Our plan was to climb straight up L, and in hindsight this would have been more efficient, but this would involve a lot of steep loose ground so we stay on the trail (there are several) which leads to the Mt Alarm saddle.

From the saddle, the way to Tappy is barred by the mapped 2711m pinnacle, maybe 50m tall at its vertical SW face, which we decide to pass left of. In hindsight we thought R may have been a little simpler - but friends who climbed the peak 2 weeks later said R doesn't work - "very steep loose scree and ends in cliffs". So, Left it is... Traversing L on scree we skirt the foot of a buttress then contour round on more scree to another buttress, making a short scramble up to a small notch. From here we make a short loose descent and traverse to the foot of a snow filled gully, scrambling up beside the steep snow on mostly stable granite. At length we make it to a stony saddle where the East ridge ascent route joins: I make a short detour to a stony knoll which is a little lower than the 2711 pinnacle and separated from it by a vertical notch. I cross the stony saddle and follow Petter and Pål up the SW ridge (good trail) to the rocky summit. We're here in 4h30 and enjoy the sunshine for 30 mins.

We descend the north ridge: as we do so, the clouds descend, settling at about 2500m for the rest of the day, although the forecast showers don't arrive until late pm when we're safely back in the hut. The first descent gully reached is snow free except for some easy angled snow low down, and would have been the easiest way down. However we decide to see some more of the north ridge. The second gully has steep snow. We continue to the col before Pinnacle 2720: (we contour on rough talus, best to keep to ridge); slightly obscure cairn at marks start of rather loose descent to col.

We descend from the col, sometimes on decent rideable scree but mostly picking our way painstakingly down reasonably stable talus. At 2400m we descend L a little to get a view down the slope, but the best line keeps slightly R, fairly close to the craggy spur then R of the stream when it appears. It's good to rejoin the trail and we're soon back at the hut. Descent time 3h50, round trip 12.5km from hut, 8h50. It would have been easier and quicker with a decent amount of snow. The Aussies have moved on so we have the place to ourselves again.

Next morning we hike back down the Hodder River in 5h45. Once back on the main Gladstone Down track, be sure to look out for the shortcut trail R immediately after a gate where the main track bends L uphill.

On our drive back to Christchurch we take the more direct route, following the Awatere Valley Road south to Hanmer Springs, close to 2 hours driving. It's a reasonable quality stone surface all the way, passing through dry grassland. Note that the road south from Molesworth is closed 7pm-7am according to a sign at Molesworth. This section of the road is of less good quality: a couple of the stream crossings could be tricky without high clearance.

Tappy is the last of our New Zealand ultra-prominent peaks. We've summitted 7 of the 10 and attempted an 8th, Mount Aspiring. We'd ruled out Tutoko and Cook as being beyond the scope of our fairly short trip (Cook's highest summit is effectively inaccessible at present except perhaps in favourable Spring conditions). The weather has been excellent throughout, with no downtime whatsoever.

Our next main goal is Mount Ossa the Tasmania island highpoint. Before that, tomorrow we climb Te Ahu Patiki (Mount Herbert) near Christchurch, on the free day before our flight.

Tappy photo album

Postscript: onto returning to civilisation I learn that a good friend and fellow peakbagger from the USA died on 9 Jan shortly before our Tappy trip. Rest in peace, Adam Helman, thanks for the many good peaks we shared. Colombia's Ritacuba Blanco was our last, just a year ago. Good memories, very sad loss.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:8546 ft / 2603 m
    Total Elevation Loss:8546 ft / 2603 m
    Round-Trip Distance:27.5 mi / 44.2 km
    Grade/Class:YDS 3
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Stream Ford, Snow on Ground, Scramble
    Gear Used:
Hut Camp
    Nights Spent:2 nights away from roads
    Weather:Pleasant, Breezy, Partly Cloudy
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:8284 ft / 2524 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 7956 ft / 2425 m; Extra: 328 ft / 99m
    Loss on way in:328 ft / 99 m
    Distance:13.7 mi / 22.1 km
    Route:Hodder Huts, Alarm saddle
    Start Trailhead:Hodder Bridge  1509 ft / 459 m
    Time:1 Days 3 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:8218 ft / 2504 m
        Loss Breakdown:Net: 7956 ft / 2425 m; Extra: 262 ft / 79m
    Gain on way out:262 ft / 79 m
    Distance:13.7 mi / 22.1 km
    Route:North ridge, Hodder Huts
    End Trailhead:Hodder Bridge  1509 ft / 459 m
    Time:1 Days 1 Hours 
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Rob Woodall
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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