As I sat outside with a warm cup of tea in my hands I looked out at the bleak day. Perfect! I thought to myself. Wharite Peak Track was on the agenda and as I knew it was a hard climb, I welcomed the cooler start to the day. Little did I know, it was a false sense of security.
Wharite Peak Quick Stats
Time 6-8 hours. It took me 6.5 return with (lots of) stops, 3.5 up and 3 back down again.
Difficulty Rather! The track is very steep most of the way up, very overgrown and often hard to navigate. Wharite Peak Track is classed as advanced. Do not attempt this track if you are inexperienced.
Fitness High! As my 12 year old is fond of saying, ‘stupid uphills’
Access At the end of Coppermine Road outside Woodville, Hawkes Bay
Up Coppermine Creek
As I set out over the saddle road, the low cloud began to lift and I was treated to a majestic view of the transmitter tower sitting atop Wharite Peak. I parked in the Coppermine Creek carpark and set off. The mist was still lingering making the forest seem eery. Occasional sunrays probed their way through the trees, the forest still except for the occasional bird competing with the cicadas and the gentle gushing of the creek.
Wharite Peak Track starts about 20 minutes up Coppermine Creek Track. I stopped at the junction and looked down Coppermine Creek Track at the lovely wide track carpeted in leaves meandering along, to the right the track leads over farmland and loops back to the carpark. Another lovely wide track that dips into the creek before heading back into the trees.
Wharite Peak Track to the left heads straight up the dusty, sparse hill. Resigned I opened up my trekking pole and started up the hill.
Up Wharite Peak Track
The track climbs very steeply and after a long summer with little rain, it was dusty. This, in turn, made it rather slippery. The track merged into the classic hard dirt, leaf strewn track before long. Which was lucky, as I was getting tired of slipping slightly downhill with each step. It gets old rather quickly.
The iconic orange triangle trail markers are few and far between along the track. A few mark an already obvious part of the track while the occasional triangle is hidden behind a shrub. The rest of the time they are non-existent.
This, coupled with an overgrown track, made it rather difficult to follow the right path at times. Most of the time my educated guesses turned out to be correct. Twice I had to backtrack quite considerably.
The first time was on the way up. The track literally just disappeared and I was left just looking around going, ‘huh, not sure where to go now’. I pressed on in what I thought was the right way. Unfortunately, my educated guess would have got an F in this case.
Stopping and looking around I could see that this wasn’t the right way after all. I backtracked a short way but as the trees and shrubs were so thick it was hard to backtrack exactly the way I had come. Keeping in mind where I went off track and where I knew the track had to go I eventually made it back to where I veered off course.
After looking around and spotting no orange trail markers I had to put on my detective hat (luckily I like hats) and look for subtle clues as to where the track was.
It wasn’t obvious but eventually figured out it went through some shrubs that were standing in line marching up the hill. Armed with my trekking pole I managed to push my way through and low and behold, the shrubs were indeed the path.
Not such a well-maintained Track
Wharite Peak Track isn’t very well-maintained. The track is overgrown with ferns, grass and shrubs. Often very high. This makes the track hard to see and navigation gets a bit tricky in places. You may need to engage in a bit of bushwhacking and educated guesses as to where the track leads.
Along the tops, the track becomes boggy as well as overgrown. Good luck finding those slippery rocks and exposed tree roots. I only found them several times after tripping. Many a sweary word was uttered angrily and one poor tree root copped a swift kick in anger.
Along the Tops
After reaching the top of the first peak, the second peak looms up head. The cellphone tower looks within reach to the left. A surge of excitement went through me. I was nearly there! Or so I thought.
The second peak, while steep and still overgrown, was fairly pleasant to climb. Every now and then I stopped to take in the view behind. The Hawkes Bay stretches into the distance, burned dry from the relentless summer sun. The green peak I had just climbed rolled gently a scar cutting through the trees. It was much easier to see the path from up here.
Eventually, I made it to the top and turned left towards Whareiti Peak, a dilapidated sign leans into the trees, half fallen over with its paint cracked and peeling. I made a mental note to keep an eye out for it on the way back.
The tops were extremely boggy, even after a long dry period of no rain. The path overgrown still but this time there is the added element of smooth rocks to clamber over.
As the path is boggy and overgrown, slipping over was frequent. I seemed to find every tree root, slippery rock and deep mud. The wind whipped around even though it was a clear day with very little wind at the bottom of the track. In the cooler months, the wind can get extremely strong so keep this in mind.
Wharite Peak kept looming in the distance, never seeming to appear closer. It took about 45 minutes from the turn off to get there. Not the 15 I was hoping as I started along the tops!
I had to talk myself into carrying on a couple of times. I was exhausted from the heat, thirst, the climb and the constant tripping. Eventually, I rounded a corner and there it was. Never was there a sweeter sight.
Wharite Peak Track ends at a transmitter tower that dominates the skyline. This is the southernmost tip of the Ruahine Range.
The views stretch 360 degrees out to the Tongariro National Park, Manawatu, down to Kapiti Island and across the Hawkes Bay. It was a clear day with very few clouds in sight so I was treated to a feast for the eyes. It kind of made up for my aching muddy legs, forming bruises and scratches from the thorns.
After sitting on the edge of the mountain it was time to head back down. I was kind of hoping that the workmen that were working on the transmitter would feel sorry for me and offer me a ride down. No such luck. The long way down it was.
Back Down Again
Armed with the knowledge of the terrain, I assured myself it would be much easier going down. What a fool I was. The tripping was still far more frequent than I would have liked and I missed the turnoff to go back down to Coppermine Creek.
I only realised this after I saw that I was heading towards another peak and the terrain didn’t look familiar. It had started changing into more of a ‘Goblin Forest’ kind of terrain rather than the ‘hardy shrubs in the way’ kind of terrain. I backtracked keeping an eye out for the shabby sign. Luckily it was only a few minutes away. It pays to be observant of your surroundings especially on an unfamiliar hike. That way if you do take a wrong turn, you are more aware of where you need to be.
After finding the correct track, it was pretty much all downhill to Coppermine Creek. It was still overgrown (it hadn’t suddenly cleared in the few hours I was away sadly) but as I was going down, I could see much more clearly where I needed to head because I was above the track most of the time looking down on it.
Before long I reached Coppermine Creek and headed down to the water to fill up my drink bottle. I had emptied it dry an hour or two beforehand and all I could think about was water by that time.
Another 20 minutes and the car was in sight. Huzzah! I peeled off my muddy shoes and soaking socks ready to head to Woodville for a celebratory ice cream.
An Interesting Array of Nature
Nature comes into her own on Wharite Peak Track. As it has been largely left alone, many interesting sights are left to flourish.
Muted versions of monarch butterflies flitted about, making the most of Valentine’s Day (if you know what I mean *really big obvious wink*), cicadas were out in force and dragonflies hovered in the blue sky ahead. Much to my annoyance, sticky blowflies were also in abundance. As I was already feeling grouchy from the constant tripping over, these little creatures also copped a fair few of the sweary words as well.
Unfortunately, as the area has been left wild, there aren’t many stoat traps. There is less birdsong in this part of the Ruahine Ranges compared to other areas such as Shorts Track, Rangiwahia Hut and Iron Gate Gorge. Which was a shame. Those pesky stoats and possums have also made their mark it seems.
Tips if you get lost
If you get lost in the bush (which is a distinct possibility on this track), there are a few tips that will help you find your way back on track.
- Don’t panic and keep calm
- Stop as soon as you realise that you are lost
- Look for familiar landmarks both in your immediate surroundings and in the distance, use these as a guide. For example, if you know a peak should be directly in front of you, aim yourself that way and towards where the track should be. You should meet up with it eventually.
- Hopefully, you have been observant throughout your hike, if you have you should be able to recognise where you have come from
- If you have only wandered a few minutes of the track, retrace your steps until you find familiar surroundings again. Make sure that you are taking in your surroundings, look for unusually shaped trees or logs. This will help you in case you end up going around in circles.
- Have a look at your map, see if you can pinpoint your location and a way back to your track. It is a good idea to always have a paper map with you. If you don’t, you can download maps onto your phone. I always have a downloaded topographical map on my phone just in case. Make sure you know how to read your map though or else it is rendered pointless.
- Worst case scenario, set off your PLB or ring for help if you have service on your phone. You may need to move to higher ground for this.
Tips for Tackling Wharite Peak Track
- Do not daydream! The trail markers are few and far between and the track is not always obvious
- Take extra, extra water.
- Be very cautious along the tops, the track is boggy and overgrown.
- Look behind you often, not only for the views (which are perfect) but so you know exactly where you are on the track.
- Look ahead for clues as to where the track goes. Clues such as a change in landscape that could indicate a track cuts through.
It had been a couple of weeks since my last hike with Ma and another month or two since I had been solo. I was craving alone Nature Time and Valentine’s Day was the perfect day to spend doing something I love in a place that fills my heart.
Wharite Peak Track is not for the fainthearted. It is a wild, rugged, merciless track. If you are inexperienced this isn’t the track for you. However, if you are experienced this is a great track to challenge yourself. The views from Wharite Peak are jaw-droppingly stunning on a clear day.
Just remember to pack lots of water (big fail on my part) and keep an eye on that darn track and you’ll be right.
Other Hikes in the Area
- Coppermine Creek, Eastern Ruahine Range
- Triplex Hut, Eastern Ruahine Range
- A-Frame Hut, Eastern Ruahine Range
- Manawatu Gorge Loop Track, Palmerston North
Pin for Later