The Pylon Peak Track in the Waiorongomai Valley was opened up in 2015 and currently does not appear on the DoC web site or signs in the area. The track branches off the Low Level Pack (or Low Level Drive) Track near the end of Waiorongomai Road, crosses the Waiorongomai River, climbs to a ridgeline which it follows before climbing quite steeply to the Pylon Peak and joining up with the Kaimai Ridgeway Track (formerly the North-South Track).
There are still a few remains of the steel power pylons which were used for the power line linking the Horahora hydro-electric power station with the Waihi gold mine and Victoria Battery in the Karangahake Gorge. The power station was the first large power station on the Waikato River and on the North Island, built in 1913 and commissioned in 1914. The power station was sold to the Government in 1920, expanded, supplying power to Paeroa and further afield to Cambridge, Hamilton and Auckland, before being submerged by Lake Karapiro after the Karapiro Dam was completed in 1948.
One option when returning to the carpark on Waiorongomai Rd from the upper end of the Piako County Tramway is the High Level Pack Track to the head of Butlers Incline, then the Cadman (or Buck Rock or Ruby’s) Track down to rejoin the High Level Pack Track, and the Low Level Drive. From Cadman Track there is a short but steep and rough climb to the pinnacle of Buck Rock. The total distance is about 7 km.
The Piako County Tramway in the Waiorongomai Valley was built and financed by Piako County Council in 1882-1883 to transport ore from the gold mines in the valley to the Firth and Clark Battery at the base of the valley near Waiorongomai Village. The tramway was about 5km long, and consisted of 3 level sections, joined by 3 self-acting inclines. The longest and best preserved of these is Butlers Incline, at 400m long and 25 degree slope.
The rails on the lowest incline, Fern Spur Incline, have almost all been removed or stolen. Only two very short sections at the bottom end and at the top end have been reconstruction. There is no track following the exact route of the incline, but the High Level Pack Track does give access to both ends of the incline, and goes through a cutting where the incline passed over the track.
The Waiorongomai Valley, on the south-eastern side of Mt Te Aroha, has some of my favourite walking tracks. There is a combination of easy, well-formed tracks, steeper tracks, and difficult tracks, combined with rail and gold-mining history, regenerating forestry, and expansive views.
The valley is accessible from the carpark at the end of Waiorongomai Rd, off Te Aroha – Gordon Rd, just a few kilometres from Te Aroha township. There are basic toilet facilities near the carpark. The Waiorongomai Village was situated on the flat farmland next to the carpark.
Today’s walk contains a mix of track types. It starts on the Low Level Track, continues on the Water Race Track, climbs up the steep New Era Branch Track, follows the tramline to the Butlers Incline headframe, and then takes the High Level Pack Track back to the carpark.