Hello readers! Yes, we did manage to squeeze in a fair bit of tramping over Xmas. Although our original plan of doing the Thunderbolt track in the Kaimanawas fell through due to slightly iffy weather (and a lack of confidence on our part to navigate along the tops in cloud), we decided to start our Tararuas trip on Jan 1.
We rang in the new year in our wee tent in the Holdsworth Lodge camping ground just outside of Masterton. For several years now, I’ve wanted to ring in the new year somewhere in the backcountry (last year it was supposed to be Welcome Flat Hut. Sadly, we were rained out and the track was closed by DOC). This year it was supposed to be somewhere in the Kaimanawas and we were rained out again. 😦 But in our tent in a campground (accompanied by some Lewis Road Creamery Chocolate Milk) wasn’t too shabby of a way to ring in the new year. And there’s always next year, right?
The reason we chose the Mt. Holdsworth/Jumbo circuit is that in 2012, we did a modified version of the Southern Crossing which was pretty stunning. That was my first foray into the Tararuas (though Dylan had been in with his Dad as a child) and I absolutely loved it – the old huts, the goblin forest, the steep knife edged ridgeline – honestly amazing. Needless to say the Tararuas warranted further exploration.
Our original plan was to stay at Jumbo hut on Jan 1, then go along the tops via 3 kings or the Baldy track and descend into Mitre Flats hut. But of course, Jan 2 dawned quite windy and admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of wind, especially seeing as how exposed we would be (Dylan, of course, being of sturdier build than I am, isn’t bothered in the slightest by wind). So instead we had a leisurely descent out back to the Holdsworth Lodge campground, and then caught up with our friends in Wellington. Such is tramping – being flexible and willing to alter your trip depending on conditions/abilities/level of comfort of other party members.
The track up to Powell hut is of a “great walk” standard meaning… Stairs. So. Many. Stairs. Yes, it makes it easier. But it also takes a bit of the excitement out of tramping.
It should also be noted that DOC has recently changed the booking system surrounding Powell, Jumbo and Atiwhakatu huts, so if you’re planning on heading to that area soon, make sure to do your research and determine if you need to pre-book your hut or not. There was certainly a great deal of confusion about the new system among the trampers we met in the area. At the time of writing this post, Powell and Atiwhakatu were booked huts and even provided gas, whereas Jumbo did not need to be booked and the gas was going to be removed (although luckily for us, there was still some there at the time! Bonus!).
I think the highlight for me was coming across a fabulous swimming hole in the Atiwhakatu river on our way out – which was a very hot day. It was clearly visible from the bridge (as seen in the photo below) and there was a little steep track off the side of the main track which led to it. We weren’t the only ones there, so it was obviously a pretty popular swimming hole.
Anyways, Dylan and I hope to continue to explore more of the North Island’s tramps – we are definitely planning to do some in the Kaimanawas, Ruahines and Tararuas again as well.