Ngamoko Range TraverseExperienced
Submitted by Rudi Smith
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Back country - remote
Native bushOpen farmlandsOpen ridges/tops
Not Suitable (Novice)
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The description below assumes a start at the Knights-Shorts Loop Track carpark, however other variations can work. It is recommended to run the route in an anticlockwise direction to get you on (and off) the tops earlier in the day.
The run starts with a 500m section through farmland to get to the bush. Shortly after the track drops to a creek crossing (ankle depth in summer) and then begins climbing. At the 1km mark take the right turn onto Shorts Track. From here the track steadily climbs up to reach the ridgeline (1380m) at the 5km mark (+750m from the start).
On the tops, follow the poled route to Toka. The trail is well formed and mostly runnable. Between Toka (1519m) and the next major peak, Tunupo (1568m), there is no official track and it is generally not runnable. However, it is a stunning ridgeline to traverse and in good weather it is easy to follow.
From Tunupo keep heading north along the ridge, where it starts to broaden. There is a trail in parts, so movement is a bit quicker. A further 3.7km (14km mark) from Tunupo, you will reach a sign for Iron Gate Hut. Take this left fork (heading on the right fork would take you towards Pk A6GJ, Otumore and the source of Pohangina River - Pohangina Saddle). The track now drops off the ridge down a spur towards the Oroua River. After approximately 1.5km you'll rejoin the marked trail to Iron Gate Hut, however the track off the ridge is well defined and navigation is easy. You drop quite steeply down fairly rooty and technical terrain to reach the Iron Gate Hut at the 19km mark.
The trail now follows the route of the Oroua River. The trail undulates and there are a few minor stream crossings; the crossing of the Tunupo stream is the largest and goes up to mid-calf in normal, summer conditions. The trail eventually comes out at the Alice Nash Memorial Heritage Lodge (after a climb up from the river) and from here the trail widens and takes you to the beautiful arch bridge over the Umutoi stream. From here you climb up a grassy farm track to the carpark off Petersons Road. To get back to the start, you've got a chance to stretch your legs on some gravel road which winds its way through farmland. From the carpark gate, take a right onto Petersons Road. At the next intersection, take a left (towards Sixtus Lodge) and follow the road you drove in on to bring you back to the start.
To shorten the route, there are options to go up/down Knights Track (to/from Toka summit) and the unnamed but well marked Tunupo track (between Alice Nash Memorial Heritage Lodge and Tunupo summit).
NB This route shares a fair bit in common with the Iron Gate Hut to Tunupo High Point Loop route, which you can read about here
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Features of interest
Whio (blue duck) are reported in the area and may be seen in the latter part of the run on the Oroua River.
A significant portion of the run is on the Ngamoko Range tops and on a good day you should be able to have views over the Manawatu, Hawkes Bay, other parts of the Ruahines, and Mts Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe, Tongariro and Taranaki.
The route on the tops is not suitable for quick running if that's what you're after. However, it is a beautiful traverse with great views. Although much of the top travel is not poled, on a clear day the navigation is straightforward.
Make Up of Run
Untracked / Route only: 30%
Technical Single Track: 40%
Moderate Single Track: 10%
Farm Road / 4WD Track: 5%
Gravel Road: 15%
Access to the area is from Table Flat Road, just north of Apiti.
The run is a loop, although the single track is connected by 5.5km of gravel road through farmland at the start/end. If you've got one vehicle, then you'll need to run this section. It is very pleasant, mostly downhill and low traffic - only from trampers/hunters and local farmers.
If you want to start with the gravel run, park at the Alice Nash Memorial Heritage Lodge Track start (off Petersons Road). If you want to finish with the gravel run, park at the Knights-Shorts Loop Track start (end of Limestone Road; follow signs to Sixtus Lodge and then drive to the road end).
If you've got two vehicles, then you can leave one at the end (Alice Nash Memorial Heritage Lodge Track) and drive to the start (Knights-Shorts Loop Track).
There is no public transport to the start of the run.
The access is on gravel road, so road/touring bikes would be uncomfortable.
There is a ~10-car carpark at the Knights-Shorts Loop Track start (end of Limestone Road) and a ~20-car carpark at the Alice Nash Memorial Heritage Lodge Track start (off Petersons Road).
The route from the top of the Shorts Track to Toka is poled, but the rest of the tops travel is not. A baited trap line runs between Tunupo and the top of the Iron Gate Hut track and consequently, there is a faint track in most places and traps every 200m to assist with navigation.
The trails below the bushline are well marked with orange triangles.
Waterproof leggings, Thermal leggings, 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.
There are a few tarns on the tops - around Toka summit and after Pk 1505. From Iron Gate Hut (19km) onwards, you're close to the Oroua River and its tributary creeks.
Approximately 9km of the route will be along to tops at approximately 1500m. At any time of the year, weather systems can develop rapidly and visibility can drop.
Snow can be present over winter.
There are a few creek crossings, although in normal summer conditions these should be no deeper than mid-calf.
The tops are exposed to weather (wind, rain, snow) and navigation may become difficult in low visibility.
Take care when running (or driving) the gravel road and be alert for other road users. No headphones!
The park is also used by hunters.
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