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Peak bagging in the Hunuas

Posted by Julia Moore.

Why would you get out of your fluffy sleeping bag, even before sunrise on a Sunday morning, camping in beautiful weather at the Tapapakanga Regional Park?It is dark, but I can hear Alan tapping away at his cell phone - it is not even 5am. So I did not need that extra battery attached to my iphone to ensure the alarm woke us up in the morning. One reason to get up and out early was our neat co-campers: Jeff, also from Theta, and his wife Simone had been convinced, to be training support only at the last minute. All they had to do was give our children breakfast and take them to the beach so Alan & I could both go out training. The other reason was to meet Jon on time, as he had made a 4am start to get to the Hunuas to meet us. It would be no good if he got there before us, when we were only 10 minutes away.  But yes, of course, he was there waiting for us.

Alan must have been using some persuasive language to convince Jon to meet us for some training this week. Perhaps he waxed lyrical about the remote back country of the Hunuas right on Auckland’s doorstep, or the fact that we will get to the summit of the highest point in Auckland and see marvellous views. Alan is not the type of person to mention the steep nature of the landscape or that we may have to push our mountain bikes up a steep slope over steps, tree roots – as that is the ‘adventure’ part of racing that he likes. Jon and I only get to see the map just before we go, so spotting the tough gradient means speed-reading the map for close contours to see what crazy idea Alan is proposing to do for training this week.



Surprisingly I saw no one at our start in the Hunuas at 7am. If you don’t want crowds on the highest hill near a big city, the Hunuas are definitely your place. There were a few viewpoints to break up the day, but the campsite, shelter and hut near the summit were all empty, and the last visitor to the hut was there in January. Most amazingly for the Hunuas was the lack of mud, the lack of rain made the run around the circuit track and the bike ride, very different to any trip I’d done in the Hunuas before. It took us an hour to go up the Waharau Ridge Track with our bikes and 1.5 hours to run around the Kohukohunui Track reaching the Kohukohunui summit (688m, for the earnest peak-baggers) around 9.30am. At the summit we had beaten the full force of the sunshine and so the morning mist had only just lifted. We spotted a bit of the Thames, but not much in the direction of Auckland. We’ll just have to remember the stunning view from last year when we could see all the way to the Waitakeres.

We took 1 hour to run back to the Mangatangi Ridge Track to our bikes and to some up and downs before free-riding most of the way down the Puriri Grove track. Doing a bit of biking to get to the summit made it a quicker trip to the summit at 4 hours return. This beat our slower 7 hour summit done on foot last year from the other side of the Hunuas starting from the Mangatawhiri Reservoir campsite.

So why was Alan texting at 5am morning? He was asking Jon to bring an extra bike helmet, as we had forgotten ours. Thanks Jon for bringing your ‘mad max’ version of a skid-lid. It was taped together with brown parcel tape, and so made that descent so much ‘safer’.

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