Mt Matthews is the tallest peak in the Rimutaka range and the nearest to Wellington. The climb to the summit will take you 949 m above sea level.
Described as “a hard day’s grind”, the return trip to Mt Matthews takes a full day and is suitable only for fit trampers. The tramp begins by following the Orongorongo Track which starts at the top parking area in the Catchpool Valley, Rimutaka Forest Park. Follow the gentle gradient of this track for about 5 km before descending to an arched bridge over the Turere Stream to the Orongorongo River.
Walk up the river bed for an hour (about 4 km) until you reach Matthews Stream. A poled route criss-crosses the stream for about 600 metres leading to the start of the Mt Matthews Track on the true left. The track climbs steeply, passing the South Saddle/Mukamuka Track and emerging onto a grassy plateau.
You then have to negotiate a narrow section of ridge and ascend a steep face to reach the peak.
The summit is clad with forest, but you can catch glimpses of Palliser Bay, and the Wairarapa Plains through gaps in trees. A hard climb up to the south saddle — a grassy plateau about half way to the top is rewarded with spectacular views of Wellington Harbour and the lower Wainuiomata Valley.
En route you see evidence of the earthquakes which uplifted the range over the last 12 million years. The last, in 1855, measured about eight on the Richter scale and raised the Rimutakas by around three metres.
Nikau palms and kiekie vines are the first native plants you encounter on your ascent. They lead to a more open area of red beech forest after which you'll pass through pockets of rimu, miro and kamahi. The steep section passes through open beech forest to the grassy plateau which offers impressive views.
The steepest face at the end leads to a narrow section of ridge adorned by moss-clad silver beech.
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The Catchpool Valley in the Rimutaka Forest Park is located 10 km behind Wainuiomata on the coast road.