Altitude: 102m to 887m. Gain: 1113m. Loss: 328m . Gradient: 9 deg (Moderate)
Skills: - Streams (2/6)
From Waiorongomai Hut head briefly north up the riverbed or forested flats to the Oreore Stream, which you must then follow upriver. The valley is open but scrubby for the first 300m to the forks. The northern fork leads to a large waterfall, which many people visit. The ridge in the centre has a good ground trail leading to the Waiorongomai Saddle and on into the upper Orongorongo.
For the main range, I took the southern fork of the Oreore. The valley becomes narrower - but travel is possible, sometimes on scrubby banks and sometimes in the narrow creek. Windfall over the river is the main obstacle. After 2km, the last forks shown on the map are reached. Teh objective from here is to climb the spur in between the 2 forks to pt 720. However, the first 200m of the ridgeline were narrow and scrubby and I ended up heading slightly up the eastern fork before scrambling up onto the spur up what were little more than pig-tunnels through the scrub.
Once on the spur and 100m above the valley floor thing improve greatly. The scrub is left and replaced by open beech forest - a few spots of scrubby young growth, but generally excellent going. A good ground trail runs all the way up the spur to pt720.
Swinging SSW from pt720- onto the Rimutaka main range things start ok - open beech with bands of scrubby young growth, but steadily deteriorate. It appears that the ridgeline cops severe storms, and whole sections of forest have been flattened at times in the past - leading to swathes of windfall or scrubby regen that must be scrambled through. Bush lawyer makes this all the more fun. The worst point is probably around pt860 - the scrubbiest at the least, but even after that there are several more bands of tough going to cross.
The ridgeline is forested, but there are occasional glimpse views down the Orongorongo and to the coast.
Eventually the track enters moss-covered cloud forest for the last 300m to Papatahi highpoint - great going to the summit where you'll find the clear, marked, well-cut Papatahi crossing track.