Mt Pfeifer

13 -14 January 2021

Finally a fine, settled weather window of a few days appeared so I contacted the people who had been booked on the cancelled Mt Titiroa trip. Three others joined me for the overnight tramp just west of Otira. This trip has been on my wish list for many years and did not disappoint.

I contacted the farmers who in the past have allowed us to drive through their property at Aickens corner and park well off the road. But they no longer allow this and told me to park in the DOC roadside park. However, I did not want my car trashed so left my car at Otira hotel and did some hitching instead. Kind people looked after me and it was a very satisfactory option which caused no delays.

We had a very leisurely time at our camp in perfect summer conditions. Jane cooked dinner while I lazed about trying to recover from a serious bout of dehydration.

Unfortunately, this prevented me from climbing further next day. And many thanks to my companions who had carried my load when I was incapacitated with low energy and severe cramp. The views were wonderful and it was ideal bivvy bag weather. Luckily the thousands of frogs in the lukewarm tarn were still at the tadpole stage so it was a quiet, starry night. Thick mist filled the valleys below us by morning and did not disperse until almost midday. Helen, Jane and Peter set off at first light for the climb and returned just after midday. I had a blissful morning enjoying just being there and peak-spotting from the ridge. The descent from the saddle was marred by a few nasty falls – those boulders are slippery when least expected! Rata trees in full bloom were a highlight. Arriving back at the highway, I almost pushed Peter off the steps of the footbridge in my hurry to thumb a ride with a car I could hear coming around the bend. Happily, I was successful so we were very soon enjoying cool drinks outside the Otira Hotel, ending a very enjoyable trip.

Route Information: The route up to the expansive tussock basins leading to Mt Pfeifer begins at the Morrison footbridge, beside the highway where the Deception River meets the Otira River. It is best to travel downstream along the Te Araroa track about 400m before turning right and heading into Paratu Stream. This avoids floundering in the bush like we did on the way in! Several hours of constant climbing up the bouldery Paratu creek bed, with of sections of track in the upper reaches, bring you to Waharoa Saddle. Make sure you pick up the red marker on a branch which directs you left at the first branching of the stream. Also at about 850m altitude, look out for a cairn which directs you slightly right onto the upper track. After the saddle a very obvious track leads up the scrubby ridge to the tussock basins above. We camped at the first tarns at 1320m. Next day, the climbing route was over the prominent knob at 1460m, then a descent into the basin below and a sidle around to Pfeifer Bivvy (It is best to not drop right down to the lip of the basins – keep a bit of altitude on.) Then it is an obvious rocky scramble up to the peak.

We were Diane Mellish (leader), Helen Binney, Jane Liddle, Peter Umbers. (DM)

Chef Jane Liddle at work! Photo courtesy of Diane Mellish.

Helen Binnie on the summit of Mt Pfeifer. Photo courtesy of Helen Binnie.