“…There’s a river crossing on a rock chute just above a 4m waterfall. The water is flowing fast down the chute and if you lose footing you go over the waterfall… Some trampers may find this section challenging”.
Hmmm…should trail notes really read like this? Luckily for us we were blessed with hot and dry conditions which made the many river crossings very manageable, although I can imagine that in different weather the Richmond Ranges would be a totally different beast.
Our five day tramp through this section of the Te Araroa Trail has been building up in our minds for some time as a remote and high region (consistently over 1500m) that would likely test us on a number of fronts. There were many long days with very challenging terrain involving ‘undulating trail’ (terrain rising and falling so steeply that its often hard not to slide back down the slope), ‘steep and exposed sections’ (no joke), and ‘lots of sidling, at times on steep terrain’ (one slip and it would be….bad).
Popping a few ‘Harden up’ pills from my first aid kit (thanks for the recommendation Lance) I tackled the trail with the single-minded goal of placing every footfall and pole-plant in a safe and secure place. I learn quickly that there are actually not too many of these to be found. Walking down steep scree slopes I try to use large rocks to brace against with my boots only to find that they regularly give way and slide down the slope with me. On other slopes, boulder hopping from one large rock to another, I discover seemingly large and well locked in boulders shift and tilt with my weight. Nothing is secure here and no surface can be trusted. One step at a time, slowly and deliberately… don’t look down, don’t consider ‘what if’… just focus.
Numerous times I scour the terrain for the trail ahead only to scoff inwardly “Seriously…are you kidding me?!” when my eyes finally lock onto the route.
The Richmond Ranges are huge and beautiful with a vast variety of terrain. Rocky mountain ridges, scree slopes, beech forest, boulder filled river crossings, and rocky red and grey moonscapes. During our visit it also felt a very quiet place. With no wind during our tramp, and no distant sounds of civilisation or other people, the silence is at times deafening. Only the song of a bird in the trees or the croak of frogs around a glacial lake at night broke the silence.
For future trampers to this region, the ranges are to be respected but not feared.