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Saturday, 28 July 2012

Omanawanui Skyline Traverse

The Omanawanui Ridgeline is one of my favourite stretches in all of the Waitakere Mountain Ranges. I first discovered the glorious trail on my first experience of the Hillary Trail on the very special opening day, way back in January 2010. It was approaching noon and our group of ten runners were dripping with sweat as we picked steps up a rocky section to the 241-metre trig station. Great views are always enhanced when you struggle to stand or see under the choking grip of oxygen-debt. But with thorough brow-sweeps with a swollen forearm, the sparkling Manukau Harbour is revealed, and the smile widens.

Rosalie takes in the Manuakau (Photo: Franky Weber)

Today was no different. With masses of new members of the Auckland Uni Tramping Club buzzing after the Hunua Re-Orientation trip, they were brimming with keenness to get out there again. A simple advert to the club yielded seventy sign-ups within the space of 48 hours! An answer on the sign-up form told the story: "I am so excited about caving and getting muddy that I slapped my Rubik's cube so it fell down on the floor and solved itself." Luckily thirteen cars were also volunteered, including the infamous 'Daft Vader' Land Rover - barely legal but uncomfortably fitting twelve. The adventurous riders of Andrew Draper's black truck got more than their $5 worth through the twisting hilly roads of Huia en route to the Donald McLean carpark...

Complete with fully working safety air-bags and speedometer! (Photo: Joe Delnero)

Organising 70 trampers into 10 groups all going slightly different directions  required a good footstool!
It was a daunting task being in charge of the record numbers who had shown up on such a fine Saturday. Several members of the AUTC committee were doubtful over the safety aspects of such a huge group, but I saw the chance for ten leaders to advance their skills in a reasonably safe environment. To avoid congestion on the trail, half of the groups first headed up to Mt Donald McLean to check out the primo terrain - Huia, Cornwallis and Auckland Central to the east - Whatipu and the West Coast to the West. A delectable taste-test for the adventure ahead!

Mt Donald McLean with Ingunn Sandbakk

A short stretch of the muddy Puriri Ridge track led us to the views were waiting for. Thick streams of fog blew through, drawing the curtains on the wildly oscillating Omanawanui Ridge. A great feature of so many groups along the same track: at each high point on the ridge, each roughly one kilometre apart, other bunches were visible and just within hollering distance.

Whatipu swamp stretches out the West Coast. Other groups approached from the Valley
Eric Lin isn't satisfied with just 241 metres!
Scott captures his shadow in the salty Whatipu stream

Clambering up Ninepin Rock - the southern most point in the Waitakeres

Ploughing through the swamp en route to the Whatipu Caves

One of several refreshing stream crossings up the valley on the Kura Track

Winter Waitakeres has never looked so good

The cavers were chest deep in it! 
The Whatipu Caves made for a sweet explore

Joe Delnero captured some great footage of the caves and the euphoria of the day
The effort to organise this trip for 70 people would have been the same had there only been 10 on the list. So it was so hugely satisfying to facilitate so much adventure, and share with the club one of my very favourite places near Auckland. The exhausted, beaming and appreciative faces of everyone who came made it such a worthwhile day out!

The Omanawanui Skyline Traverse

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