Ruahine CL Main Range route

The Ruahine Range is the largest of several mountain ranges in the North Island of New Zealand that form a ridge running parallel with the east coast of the island between East Cape and Wellington.

The CL Main Range route starts from Comet Rd at the Northernmost point of the range and follows the main range tops all the way down the range until Otumore 1519m where you follow the Ngamoko Range to Toka 1519m and down Knights track to Limestone Rd. This route links together many of the highest sections in the range. 

Here is some of the background information available

Background info https://tramper.nz/1648/walking-the-length-of-the-ruahines/

GPX https://drive.google.com/file/d/18ECfIhp7_5zpoLPy_04UUVV5R6Dqu-k5/view?usp=sharing

We have completed this route over two separate missions here are the writeups

Ruahine Traverse Comet Road to Sunrise Track

On my first trip to the Ruahines I was treated to beautiful sunrises, dramatic landscapes and towering snow capped peaks. My father in law pulled out an old DOC park map showing the whole range on one large bit of paper. Al had made a few attempts at traversing the range and it looked like some cool country. Come summer time at the beach my tramping books come out and adventures start to get hatched. I invited a few adventurers to join me and we had a crew of five keen to go. I found a write up from MadPom who had done a full South to North tramping trip in 2007. I wanted to do a 2 night trip and just do the tops section of the main range. Looking at the map starting at Comet Rd in the north and finishing after Longview hut 2/3rds of the way down the range looked like a great plan. I found the Ruahine tramping club and got some helpful information from Rob including another write up of a group who had travelled south on part of the route we were planning.

Sharing the GPX of the whole range with crew got some worried replies, the whole range is massive. Once I pointed out our finish point everyone felt a bit better. We planned out gear, food and logistics. With 200km separating the start and finish points taking two cars was going to create a very long Sunday night picking up cars so we hired a friendly student to come with us from Palmerston, drop us off and pick us up on Sunday. Eleanor was fantastic and even washed my car!

As the days counted down the weather thumb nails were looking good for a calm clear weekend perfect for being on the tops. I had been on the tops when the Norwester was blowing hard and it is not a safe place to be. The wind had shorten Al’s trips twice before.

Friday afternoon we left town and got to the road end in blazing sunshine, as we set off at 5pm it was 27 degrees and beautiful. To start you climb up to 1,000m and then drop straight down to the Taruarau River at 330m. The river is beautiful and has some excellent camping spots. We were straight up the otherside to 1150m. We passed the historic Shutes hut built out of stone in 1920.

Once on the ridge we made our way to the Dianes Hut turn off. Originally we planned to stay at Dianes on Friday but after getting hold of Peter Steedman we had permission to stay at No Man’s Rd hut and follow the ridge over the private hunting block. The old tracks on the ridge had not been maintained for many years but they had been reopen a couple of years ago. We could see Kawaka J to the North and for miles all around as the sun set with a pink sky. We followed the ridge and found a few markers to start with but slowly the route got less and less defined, soon we were bush bashing, something we were going to do a lot of over the next few days.

At the Dianes Hut turn off we had 3 options, stay at Dianes, stay at No Mans walking via the ridge or stay at No Mans walking down the hill via Dianes and up to No Mans. After a few hours of bashing our shins and wading through scrub we wished we had gone via Dianes. Luckily it was a lovely night with amazing stars.

As we reached the far end of No Mans Rd we found a quad bike stuck in the mud and figured it belonged to hunters who were up on the blocks, a short while later we came across White hut with a ute outside and said hello to the only person we saw until Sunrise hut.

Guy was our navigator and did an amazing job with the map and compass. It was great to have his skill in the group. It was a good reminder of the value of printing the map in sections and laminating them to use in all conditions regardless of the forecast.

We got to No Mans hut at 1am ate and crashed. No Mans is a comfortable 6 bunk hut with a carpeted floor!

In the early hours the forecast 2mm of rain fell and we set off in our jackets expecting it to clear, it never cleared and we had a huge day in the rain and clag. Ant and I put on our overtrousers to protect our cut shins from the night before. Before our trip I had checked in with Al about the need for leg protection, he said it was open and no protection was needed, clearly he had blocked out the hours of thick scrab, tussock, leatherwood and spainyard!

We made our way to Aranga Hut via the pole and marked route. After Aranga we are following the Main range route which has a trapline on the route and was tough to follow in the clag. We got to the turn off for Kylie Biv at 1.45pm and were feeling good about our progress. The sign to Sparrow Hawk said 4 hours surely we could go faster with our lite packs.

This is where the really tough bit started, massive fields of spaniard and leatherwood, we got smashed and lost the route a few times in the clag, finally we got to SparrowHawk at 6.30pm and the call was made to squeeze 5 of us into the 2 person biv for the night. The biv passed Marta not too scuzzy to sleep in test. We were cold, wet and it was likely to take another 3 hours to get to Sunrise hut. Even with Marta singing to us it was going to be tough.

This was one of those moments when the safe call was hard to make but the right thing to do. Dr Murray our head of health and safety guided us to the right call. It was disappointing to be so far short of our target but that’s part of the adventure, doing stuff that you don’t know if you can achieve.

We cranked up the cooker for our dinner, put dry clothes on and got into our sleeping bags. We hatched possible exit plans as we had no chance of getting as far down the range as planned. Hopefully the weather would clear and give us some more of the views we got on Friday. It didn’t take long for us to fall asleep.

There was a bit of one bear rolled over and the other four bears had to roll over, but it was warm with 5 bodies. Ant used an old hut bowl to create a pillow under the mattress, clever lad.

The wind from Saturday had died but the clag was still around, we decided to head to Sunrise which is marked as 3hours on the signs. The range gets more undulating for this section and the saddles are very thick with bush and leatherwood, we were bashing our way through these sections and climbing on all fours. The higher bits were open and made for better travel. The clag cleared for a few brief moments and we got to experience the grandeur of the Ruahines. We found some reception above Armstrong saddle and arranged a pickup from Sunrise track.

The warden at Sunrise Hut was the first person we had seen since Friday and chatted with us about our trip. The journey down the beautifully open and graded trail made for a pleasant and stark contrast to the last few days.

Hopefully the route on the main range south of Armstrong saddle is better than what we encountered. I have read about the challenges of land access and the reduction of resource in the Ruahines I expect these are contributing to overgrown route we saw.

Thanks to Marta, Anthony, Andrew and Guy for a great adventure.

Ruahine main range Sunrise to Limestone Rd

After 2 months of lockdown that had us running circles around our homes we were allowed to travel and stay overnight in the huts.

We had planned to go back and finish our Ruahine main range trip early April, the weekend was a cracker, 5km winds at 1700m on Mangaweka! But we were in lock down 🙁

Marta put out the call for a visit to Saw Tooth ridge and quickly we had a full car, our wonderful Palmy based driver Elinor was available to do the drop off at Sunrise track and pick up at Limestone Rd. This trip would complete the Ruahine CL (Comet Rd to Limestone Rd) main range route. Our first mission got us down to Armstong saddle where we escaped after 2 days of travel, much of it in the clag, route finding and bush bashing. Our legs took a beating. I had visited Armstrong Saddle and we did a winter trip up to Howletts hut that created hope that this section of the range would be better to travel on than the northern section.

The forecast looked good, unfortunately it was going to be a new moon so no moon light for Friday night. The plan was to start 7pm at Sunrise track and hike up to the Sunrise hut and Armstong saddle, over Te Atuaoparapara 1687m then down to Waikamaka Hut to rest for a few hours. My guess was this would be 4 hours. It was freezing when we started, no wind and clear skies. Sunrise hut was closed for maintenance. The hut warden was surprised to see 6 of us arrive at 9pm, he told us we had taken the wrong route to get to Waikamaka. Guy had recommended the shorter route up and over the Waipawa saddle, while this would have saved time it was a way less interesting route and would mean we had missed a section of the main range. The climb to Te Atuaoparapara went nice and smoothly, we got though the rough unmarked saddle section without to many issues, we had been warned about a few gnarly sections heading down to Waipawa saddle, 

“The east side is too steep to traverse, and the west traversable on all fours, or briefly, with momentum. Even that friendlier face steepens to cliffs 50m below.  The only option appears to be straddling the steeply climbing ridgeline itself, dropping to the west only to avoid the two bluffy outcrops; keep moving to win the fight with gravity, sending showers of small rocks into the valleys below.  To say that reaching the summit was a relief is an understatement: fifteen minutes of rest on the summit was not enough to calm trembling knees, due only in part to the effort of the climb.  The ascent of Te Atuaparapara from Waipawa Saddle was a highlight of the trip, but not one I will be repeating in a hurry.  I recommend the ridge 1km downstream of Waimakaka Hut as a safer alternative, and would never recommend the saddle route in anything but perfect weather.”

I was a bit nervous about this section and the hut warden had added to this with his warning to keep to the right going down this section.

Once we got over the top we started down the scree slopes, there were some nice sections where we could move well. I got a little carried away and dropped down 200m lower than we needed to be, we sidled for a bit and then had a nasty climb back onto our planned route. Anthony was pissed. The rest of the route to the saddle went fine and my stuff up had bypassed straddling the ridgeline.

Coming down from the saddle into the river is rough and steep, once we got into the river we were welcomed with a beautiful hoarfrost, it was a winter wonderland sparkling with lce everywhere. A couple of us had some slips on the ice but didn’t get too wet or hurt. At 12.45 we arrived at the lovely Waimakaka hut. Anthony had the fire going in no time and we were fed and ready for a bit of sleep.

Nightsky from the roof of Waikamaka Hut

Armstrong to Waimakaka Hut about 4 hours with a detour

Marta had us up and going by 7.45am, we followed the valley south and then headed up to Rangioteatua 1704m, it was a perfect day, blue skies, very little wind and views for miles. We got our first views of Ruapehu which had good snow cover on it. The ridge line is very broken and jagard over this section, some steep climbs and descents.

I thought we might be able to get to Howletts Hut around lunch time, turns out lunch was going to be late. It was magic being on the ridge with the amazing views, the landscape is soo dramatic, I love this shot of the Black Ridge, it captures the feel of the place.

Saw tooth was not as crazy as it looked last year when we decided not to cross it in snowy conditions, but days like this don’t happen very often. The section from Howletts to Longview is lower altitude so you are back in the scrub and it gives your legs a bashing even with gaiters, we arrived at Longview after 10 hours and were stoked there were 6 bunks free for us. After dinner and some hut chat with a few young hunters we were fast asleep before 8pm.

Waimakaka to Longview 10 hours

Marta told me to get up and take a photo, why I asked as I snuggled into my sleeping bag, take a photo she repeated. The sky was full of amazing red light from the sun rise, those are the memories that keep me coming back to the mountains.

Sunrise from Longview Hut

We had planned to get picked up at 2pm so we had over 6 hours to get back up to Otumore 1519m and then head south to Toka 1519m and down the Knights Tracks. This is a lovely section, nice open ridges, lots of runnable bits. We phoned Elinor and asked her to pick us up 2 hours earlier and we arrived at the car park at the same time. On the way down Knights we meet two hunters who had shot a nice looking stag. That was the only deer we saw.

Longview to Limestone 4.5hours

Total moving time was 20 hours, Andrew’s gps said it was 65km and 4800m 

We had an amazing trip, beautiful weather, excellent huts and good adventure time in the mountains. Just what the doctor ordered after 2 months of lock down.

Some info from missions on the route


First attempt https://www.strava.com/activities/1393593264

Second https://www.strava.com/activities/1917373485

Third attempt https://www.strava.com/activities/2867815455

Andy, Marta, Anthony, Andrew, Guy 

First half https://www.strava.com/activities/2122981601

Second half https://www.strava.com/activities/3501151312/overview

Chris Sanson

First half https://www.strava.com/activities/2999772940

Comet to Old Man7.50 via tops7.10 via Dianes
Kylie Biv14.2012.20
Armstrong Saddle2216.20
Waimakaka Hut4
Limestone Rd4

Total kms 140

Vert 8,800m

Comet to Armstrong
Armstrong to Limestone Rd

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