A Solid Gold Climb

Waiorongomai Valley offers myriad tramping tracks including the historic Butler’s Incline.

Step back in time and follow pack tracks and old tramlines from the Waikato’s gold mining days in Waiorongomai Valley.

The former gold mining area, located in Kaimai Mamaku Conservation Park, offers up several tracks and walking options that interlink with one another, which means you can tailor the walk you choose to your fitness level and sense of adventure.

We chose to conquer Butler’s Incline, an old tramline that can be reached by following the Low Level Loop, a gentler ascent, or the Piako County Tramway.

The bush was cleared to make way for gold mines after prospector Hone Werahiko discovered gold in the Waiorongomai Valley in 1881.

The subsequent gold mining operation was described as “one long chapter of disaster” by Downey Goldmines in 1935.

One reason for this is that they were never very successful due to low yields from the unexpectantly hard rock.

Since that time native bush has reclaimed the valley and the forgotten rail tracks have been unearthed and restored into a series of trails that now everyone can enjoy.

Entering this forgotten world of broken dreams is an otherworldly experience.

The hike up Butler’s Incline nods to past toil and sweat of the gold miners as it is definitely a bit of a gut buster.

Butler’s Incline is an old tramline and the equivalent of 845 steps.

Allow 15-25 minutes to the top and on the ascent, make sure to take the time to stop and enjoy the view of where you have come, and where you still have to go.

It’s impressive and you will be very pleased with yourself when you reach the top.

Butler’s Incline is part of the Piako County Tramway, which is New Zealand’s oldest known railway (1882-83).

The original rail is still in place and Butler’s Incline is the second incline along the tramway.

Here carts full of ore descended while empty carts ascended on a gravity pully system.

The difficulties and dangers involved in building the tramway is evident here.

In addition to all the muscle and sweat involved in removing the vegetation, digging out the cutting and laying the tracks, those using the incline had to ensure their timing was good in order to avoid horrendous accidents.

Every day was fraught with risk for the brakeman operating winch.

You can follow the Piako County Tramway back to the car park from the bottom of Butler’s Incline, or walk it in reverse, starting on the High Level Track which joins the Piako County Tramway.

This in turn joins the bottom of the Low Level Track at the bottom of Butler’s Incline.

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