Kakanui Peak

Sunday 16 January 2022

It was a perfect day for tramping; fine and calm with a clear sky. It promised to be hot but everybody had plenty of water.  Seven trampers, having left Oamaru at 7 o’clock, had met up with three more in Palmerston and an eleventh at the starting point where the Pigroot crossed the infant Shag River for the first time. They decided to do the trip anti-clockwise, ascending on the ridge to the east of the target peak and descending by the front ridge.

They set off at 8.45, heading across country to the bottom of the old 4wd track leading up the eastern ridge. After about two hours they came across the remains of a skifield with an old ski hut, looking rather worse for wear and far from weatherproof, but still holding a number of old-fashioned skis, old but apparently usable ski boots and a control box for the ski tow. Outside were some nutcracker belts and the ski rope lay along the line of the tow marked by pylons and pulleys. (This skifield had come to a sudden end in the 1990s, when a severe north-west storm blew off the mountain the hut housing the tractor used to drive the tow and damaged the day hut.) After a snack, the party continued up the ridge passing below the top pylon. As the track turned around the knob and dropped into a shallow saddle, a stunning view opened up of the steep basin containing Mount Dasher, Kattothyrst and Siberia Hill – all products of ancient volcanic activity which are seldom seen from this perspective.

The track carried on upwards, cresting a 1300 metre knob before dropping again to another saddle. Here, the party split with two members heading back down the east ridge and the main party of nine setting off for the final 300 metre steep climb through thick snow tussock which gave way to sub-alpine herbs as the ground became rockier. The summit was reached at 1.30pm, providing a venue for a late lunch and enjoyment for the 3600 panorama. Names were entered on the record in the jar in the summit rock, photographs taken, and at 2pm the main party started down the front ridge.  The first and steepest part of this was down stable scree and rock. About half of the way down was over tussocky ridges and humps, and the last part down a 4wd track to the toe of the ridge, from where it was a short walk across the Shag and back to the road, reaching the cars 2 hours after leaving the summit. There they met the two who had got back from the east ridge half an hour before.

The excellent but demanding day with its great scenery and weather were enjoyed by Julian, Neville, Donna, Mike, Jenny, Robbie, Rodney, Helen, Dave, Tim and John.