Submitted by Mal Law (with thanks to Kristian Day)
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Fastest Known Times (FKTs)
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This route is part of the Scott Gnarly Collection
WARNING: Do not attempt this course without a map and a compass, and make sure you can use them. Even in summer it can be very easy to get lost in poor weather, and common sense is more important than fitness in this instance.
Starting at the Lakes Car park follow the track signs to Kuripapango and Kiwi Saddle Hut. This is a very steep climb and depending on fitness could take over two hours to reach the hut. From Kiwi Saddle follow the signposts to the right leading towards Studholme Saddle, past Castle Camp and Kaiahari. This is an entirely poled route; although it is well walked and a track is visible, don't rely on this fact.
You will pass another signpost pointing towards Kaweka J or Mackintosh Spur. If you are having a hard time or weather is very poor it would be wise to head down Mackintosh Spur and follow the track back to lakes. If you're planning on continuing, head towards Kaweka J, following the poles and signs.
Once on the summit of Kaweka J, descend via Makahu Spur NOT Dons Spur ( Dons Spur track no longer exists, and if you take it, you will find yourself on a scree slope and not having much fun.)
Follow Makahu Spur all the way off the summit until you reach the Makahu Saddle Hut/car park. From the car park, follow a small track that will come off of your right, this will lead to the Ngahere Experimental Basin, and a sign post that will point towards Mackintosh Hut. Follow the clay pans towards Mackintosh until you come to a very, very steep gully that leads to the Donald River. Take it easy descending and ascending this gully, as it's very steep and can get slippery in wet weather.
Before you reach Mackintosh Hut you will come to a sign post that will point towards Mackintosh Spur and Studholm Saddle, follow this track for roughly 10-20 minutes until you come to another sign that will point you back towards the lakes car park. Stay on this track until you're eventually back at where you started.
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Features of interest
A true mountain run! The track can offer spectacular views of Hawkes Bay, the Central Plateau, and offers a satisfying challenge for even the most hardy runners but can also be dangerous if not respected.
Make Up of Run
Untracked / Route only: 35%
Technical Single Track: 25%
Moderate Single Track: 20%
Easy Single Track: 20%
Lakes Carpark, Kaweka Forest Park.
As you drive down the Napier-Taihape road you will enter the Kaweka Forest Park, look out for a sign on your right (if coming from Napier) that points towards The Mackintosh and Lakes car parks, that will lead you about 6km up a gravel road to the base of Kuripaponga.
Good parking at trailhead. Take the usual precautions regarding valuables.
Make navigation of this route super-easy by using the Capra app on your phone. View on Capra .
Keep a close eye on the map and don't attempt this route unless you know how to use map & compass.
Thermal leggings, Lightweight fleece top, Long-sleeved thermal top, Seam-sealed waterproof jacket, Gloves, Beanie/thermal headwear, Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), Whistle, First aid kit, Extra food for emergencies, Survival bag, Cellphone, Compass, Map, Headtorch and spare batteries, Crampons / microspikes (for winter conditions).
Make sure you take at least 2L of water with you and plenty of food, as there is no place to refill Between Kiwi Saddle Hut and Ngahere.
This is a VERY exposed route that can be brutally hot in summer and brutally cold in bad weather. Go prepared!
Your main hazard is the possibility of fast-changing weather conditions. Again, go prepared!
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