Ascent of Manakau on 2015-01-02

Climber: Rob Woodall

Others in Party:Petter Bjørstad
Adrian Rayner

Pål Bjørstad
Date:Friday, January 2, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
    Location:New Zealand
    Elevation:8556 ft / 2607 m

Ascent Trip Report

We had assumed 2 days for this peak, but with a camp at Barratts Bivvy it took an afternoon, a full day then a morning.

The day after our Ruapehu ascent we fly to Christchurch. Arriving New Years Eve we head into the city centre late evening for food and to see in the New Year. It seems the Casino is pretty much the only place serving food late and with half the party failing the dress code we end up without supper. A slightly surreal way to see in the New Year, also the farthest East any of us have ever done so.

Next morning we head to Hornby for a Mitre 10 store, a good bet for butane gas on a public holiday. Also a Countdown supermarket for provisions. After lunch in Kaikoura we continue north a little further on the A1, turning L at S42.33105 E173.70847 and following signs to Hapuku River car park: this is the trailhead S42.30438 E173.69138, 122m.

The trail starts immediately L of a sign and descends to the river bed. A slightly easier alternative is to hike the dirt road a short way, forking R and crossing a minor stream (stepping stones). We hike the rocky river bed, occasionally boulder-hopping across to the opposite side as required. For one longish section a subsidiary channel is followed R of the main river, shortening a bend. Approaching the gorge, a cairn on L bank (true R) marks the start of a trail through the scrub. Beyond this at start of gorge we cross to R side then at S42.27271 E173.67353 back to L (true R) both crossings are quite difficult: the last one Petter and Pal cross at boulders; Adrian and I in trailshoes wade across just downstream: we all get wet feet.

This crossing is an important waypoint as beyond it a good trail (red markers) climbs steeply through forest to avoid the gorge. At one point there's a fine view up the North Fork onto the ridge. At S42.26739 E173.66674 we turn R at a fork, signposted Barratts Bivvy. Soon reaching the river we turn R (downstream), cross to the L (N) bank then a cairn (S42.26659 E173.66916) marks a shortcut trail to a small grassy area (possible campsite): beyond this we descend to the Hapuku North Fork (cairn S42.26649 E173.67025) which we follow upstream. There is a cairned trail most of the way, not always obvious, with several stream crossings and a few scrambling moves. It's superb terrain and the boulder hopping is fun, but becomes hard work after an hour or so, with a heavy pack. A few foot wettings are more or less inevitable. At last Stace Saddle comes into view up to the left, and turning a sharp R bend in the river, a final 400m (trail has been on R, crosses to L bank, true R) leads to a cairned trail climbing R across a surprise grassy meadow to the two Barratts Bivvy huts (S42.24359 E173.67205, 800m) which are hidden in trees. The newer one (sleeps 3) is occupied, with a tent beside it. The older one is a sorry affair, perhaps more appealing if it is raining and assuming the roof doesn't leak. It's a fine night so we bivvy in the grassy open area below the huts, a nice option on a fine evening.

It's been a tough afternoon, taking 6h15 for what is a fairly short hike, 12km with only 700m ascent.

Next morning we set off at 0720 (earlier ie first light is recommended if starting here, unless moving fairly quickly) follow Hapuku North Fork back down a short way before crossing it at S42.24667 E173.66634 near an obvious scree line (above bushes) leading up to Stace Saddle. We tend to keep L of the loose scree where we can, then plod up it on small trails to the saddle S42.24772 E173.65934, 1047m.

From Stace Saddle the well defined trail climbs steeply R, initially through low bushes, then tussock grass, then through rock and scree. We reach the "campsite" boulders S42.23355 E173.65228 in 4h30. It's clear from here that there's no snow in the south face of Manakau so we decide there's highly unlikely to be any on the (sunward) north side so leave our ice axes and crampons here.

From here we initially try side-hilling with a view to reaching the saddle E of Manakau via the scree basin. However this looks unpromising - although would probably work if you knew the way down through the bluffs - and a snow patch we saw down there later would have helped with our dwindling water supply. However we climb up to Pt 2210m (S42.22582 E173.65199, P25m), descend beyond to its connecting col then make a slightly descending traverse L on scree to reach the rough ridge leading down to our target saddle S42.22302 E173.64624, 2115m. It seems odd that neither of the likely routes to this point have a trail as far as we can see and there's no detail about it in the descriptions I've seen.

Once at the saddle it's a matter of following the ridge to Manakau. There are quite a few minor tops, a more significant double topped stony summit (S42.22166 E173.63135, 2395m P33) and many gendarmes, not difficult but time consuming and some involving easy scrambling, YDS 3.

We at last make the summit just before 4pm, in 8h30, facing the possibility of a descent in darkness. However it's a great spot, with views seaward and also inland to Tappy which we hope to climb in a few days time. Like Manakau it looks essentially snow free.

In the case of Manakau there are a few patches of snow very high, but nothing lower down, so a high camp could be problematic. It's good to be able to fill water bottles, although running water involves a small diversion off the ridge.

Heading down we make much better time, thanks largely to a few scree runs. One halfway down Surveyor Spur at xxxx descends lovely fine scree a long way, bypassing the next col and short length of ridge beyond, then a small path cuts back L at S42.24142 E173.65507, 1420m) across a narrow ledge above steep slabs to rejoin the path in its tussocky section.

We descend the mostly well defined path to Stace Saddle then nice scree runs most of the way down to the creek, which we reach at 9pm, a few minutes before sunset, and refill water bottles before returning to our bivvy site near Barratts Bivvy at dusk. Very pleased to make it back down. Fine peak, pretty hard work.

On our second morning we hike out, with much more success finding the trails alongside the North Fork. It's mostly overcast in the mountains today. We're back at the trailhead in 5h30. After lunch in Kaikoura, we head for Mount Taylor.

Manakau photo album
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:10097 ft / 3076 m
    Extra Gain:984 ft / 299 m
    Route:Surveyor spur
    Trailhead:Hapuku river car park  427 ft / 130 m
    Grade/Class:YDS 3
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Open Country, Scramble
    Gear Used:
    Nights Spent:2 nights away from roads
    Weather:Hot, Breezy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Time:1 Days 2 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Time:22 Hours 
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Rob Woodall
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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