By Hannah, 07 October 2006
Neil Winchcombe Ridge Loop 18-20 November 2005
A while in the planning we set out on a sunny Friday evening after work with a goal: Cone Hut Friday night then Kime or Alpha via Winchombe ridge on Saturday and back out via Bull Mound on Sunday.
After a quick stop at a local F & C shop we headed off in Alyn’s car to Walls Whare where we meet a group of WTMC (Wellington Tramping and Mountaineering Club) members doing a combination of different trips from the same road end ranging from the same thing as us to much less. We were advised that most WTMC members were staying at Cone Hut on Friday night and others were camping out on Cone Saddle.
We headed off to Cone Hut at a steady pace and after about 2 hours we found an over full, but cosy, Cone Hut and decided to walk a bit further to the large Tutuwai Hut, which turned out to be empty, arriving about 11.30pm. The evening was mild and calm and clear.
We awoke on Saturday morning to a slightly windy and cloudy, but otherwise fine day and set out after a quick breakfast on what turned into an epic, at least as Geoff describes it. We began with a gentle walk back to Cone Hut then the climb up Cone peak. This was steeper than I remembered and we arrived about 1100 for a quick snack stop before deciding to keep on trucking to get to Neil peak for lunch at about 1230. The travel was good with the track dry and the weather warm.
After lunch came the long and uncharted territory of Winchombe ridge, which was a bit like Sawtooth ridge in an upwards direction. Geoff was beginning to feel quite tired at this stage and it became about 30 steps forward, rest for 5 mins then 30 more steps and so on fighting ever stronger winds (that were almost gale force on the tops) and persistent clag.
Our original plan was to get to Alpha Hut for Saturday night but by about 1800 we had reached Mt Hector and decided that water and energy supplies where low so we opted for nearby Kime Hut. We cooked up a big meal of mince and pasta - enough for 4 people - which we happily demolished between the two of us. Dinner was accompanied by a beer that Geoff found at the bottom of his pack, which went down well. After chatting to another small group on an overnight trip from Otaki Forks we turned in early.
Sunday shaped up to be, initially at least, just as hard as Saturday. We awoke to howling winds and rain and set off early. We headed up to Mt Hector and on across the tops. The trip across the tops was very hard. We were walking into gale force winds - the strongest winds that either of us had encountered - as well as rain. Despite this we somehow managed to get to Alpha Hut in under 3hrs. We stopped at Alpha for an early lunch and a brew at about 1100 and recovered from the effects of walking in the fierce wind and rain.
After our pit stop at Alpha Hut we set out down to Cone Hut via the Bull mound track. It was very open and exposed from the top of Hell’s gate across to Bull mound but the weather had improved on our descent providing good views and travel. Bull mound was a lot stepper than we had imaged but somehow we managed to drop 700m in 45mins. We had lunch in the brilliant sunshine on the river bed near Cone hut in sun leisurely lazing around for an hour or so.
The last 2 hours of walking started off slowly but well until the blisters on Geoff’s feet started to become more apparent but he managed to ignore the pain and keep going reaching Walls Whare road end at about 1600.
We were back in town by about 1730 and the end of a tramp that Geoff said he would never do again. Alyn however got much out of it. As any tramper knows 3 days later we were talking about the hard times in fond hindsight and of course planning the next trip.
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