Mt McKerrow is not your typical maunga
(mountain). You know you've scaled its peak when the uphill slog along a ridge in the Orongorongo Valley becomes a descent. Trees obscure the views at the top, but there are panoramic peeks of Wainuiomata and the Hutt Valley at vantage points en route.
You can start the trip to Mt McKerrow from Wainuiomata or the Catchpool Valley in the Rimutaka Forest Park. From Hine Road and the end of Sunny Grove in Wainuiomata you can reach the Whakanui Track. At the top of the hill turn right at the signpost to follow the ridge south along the eastern side of the Wainuiomata Valley until you reach the top.
Just below the summit the track splits and you can go right to follow the Clay Ridge and Five Mile Loop Tracks down to the Catchpool car park. (This trip takes around six hours to complete.) Or you can turn left and descend, coming out on the Orongorongo Valley Track to the car park. (This option will add about an hour to your tramp.)
Tropical vegetation this far south?
From the Catchpool car park end of the track you'll venture through regenerating podocarp hardwood scrub before encountering gnarly old podocarp hardwood and black and hard beech trees.
You pass through an area of windthrow — from where you get spectacular views of Wellington on a fine day — before reaching the summit and its cloak of silver beech.
I want to say that the Department of Conservation (DOC) (aka Te Papa Atawhai in Maori) does such a nice job of explaining how to enjoy the area on their website, that this page is really just a formailty. This page just serves to give this incredible region some exposure on Summitpost. It gives SPer's some familiarity with the area and a general launching point in which to conduct their research.
Please see the DOC webpage for more in-depth analysis and maps/charts/etc. Feel free to PM me should you have any questions about organizing a trip to the area (I know it can seem overwhelming when planning a trip if you are not familiar with the surroundings).
Hine Road, which leads to the track from Wainuiomata, is the last road on the left as you head out of Wainuiomata towards the coast. Catchpool Valley, the other entry point, is 10 km down the coast road behind Wainuiomata.
View of Wellington
Plan and prepare. Remember that mountain weather can quickly change so make sure you're equipped with warm clothes, food and water and stout footwear.
What to expect on a tramping track:
* Challenging day or multi-day tramping/hiking
* Track is mostly unformed with steep, rough or muddy sections
* Suitable for people with good fitness. Moderate to high level backcountry skills and experience, including navigation and survival skills required
* Track has markers, poles or rock cairns. Expect unbridged stream and river crossings
* Tramping/hiking boots required
Don't forget your trunks...
Camping & Huts
Camping is only permitted in the Catchpool Valley or Grace's Stream campsites.
On the Wairarapa side of the park you can either stay at the Corner Creek campsite or in two basic DOC huts, which are available on a first come, first served basis. On the Poneke side of the park you can either stay at the Catchpool Valley or Grace's Stream campsites, or in one of the six bookable huts in the Orongorongo Valley. These huts are sole occupancy, and it is essential to book. Booked huts in the Orongorongo Valley are available for exclusive hire. Bookings can be made via the online booking system or by contacting the DOC Wellington Visitor Centre. Backcountry hut passes and hut tickets are not valid for the booked huts.
View from the summit looking northwest.