Altitude: 411m to 1069m. Gain: 897m. Loss: 1027m . Gradient: 16 deg (Moderate-hard)
Skills: Alpine weather (2/7) Winter - Snow/ice underfoot (2/7)
A good track leads downstream from the Wairoa Stream Camp and we follow that along the eastern river bank to the base of the first spur - just upriver of the first confluence. The spur is badly defined lower down, and is steep and ferny. It makes for a steep, scrubby climb for the first 100m or so, though the good news is that windfall from the big storm of 2008 is finally rotting away,
Once on the spur proper things improve - good open mature bush and a good ground trail (carpeted with deer sign) to follow. Things remain great for the 1km climb until the 1000m contour is reached, just shy of the main ridgeline. Here things turn to rubbish, and remain that way. Mature bush ceases and is replaced by tightly spaced young growth and scrub.
Pt1067 was so thick with scrub that I ended up crossing the ridgeline and sidling the eastern face at around 1000m. This was scrubby too - but a passable bush-bash rather than a crawl. Bush lawyer entwined with the scrub was the main enemy. This approach led me into the head of the creek due east of pt1067, just north of the saddle. From here things improved slightly.
East of the saddle, mature trees returned, and though scrub was still thick underneath, it was more of a scrubby walk than a constant bushbash. We followed the ridgeline east then north to the saddle south of pt990. pt990 itself was very thick, and so we sidled just west of the summit in tangled but mature bush. Passing pt990 we swung east round the head of the creek (draining SE) over another unnumbered summit - no way round this one, and very thick with regen. From this last peak we dropped east to a saddle then swung ESE onto the first spur north of the creek we've been circumnavigating. Here finally the mature bush reasserts itself and the scrubby regen is left behind. The spur was open and good travel until around the 600m contour, where supplejack made its appearance - making the last 150 vertical meters a slower, more tangled affair - but still ok going. We emerged at the confluence of the side-creek to our south and the main Waiau River.
From here, a good ground trail leads upriver over grassy flats towards the Central Waiau Hut. A brief sidle round pools and marshes just south of the hut is marked with doc triangles, and leads to the hut.