The Holdsworth to Kaitoke tramp is a classic easy/medium three day trip. It can also be done in two days. Some experience is required including navigation skills, appropriate equipment, and reasonable fitness.
Holdsworth road end to Mountain House shelter
This well-marked track provides access to Totara Flats (see 9.9), Mountain House shelter (Topo50 BP34 048 701, NZMS260 S26 148 318), Powell Hut, Holdsworth, and beyond. About 85 minutes from the road-end to Mountain House and another 2 hours to Mt Holdsworth.
At the Holdsworth road-end, the steel bridge crosses the Atiwhakatu Stream, and 12 minutes along the service track is the turn-off L to the Donnelly Loop Track, about 3 minutes before Donnelly Flat itself. The Gentle Annie track starts 3 minutes up the Donnelly Loop Track and sidles the Atiwhakatu faces of the ridge as far as the Totara Flats turn-off. It climbs steadily, well graded, gravelled and bridged, to cross the tiny stream at the head of the gully in 15–20 minutes and the unmarked but still used Donnelly Spur Track in another 4 minutes. Soon the track breaks out of the heavy bush at an old burn and gives good views (Rocky Lookout is worth a visit) of Holdsworth and up the Atiwhakatu Valley.Powell Hut is seen uphill just at the bush-edge, and Jumbo Hut on its spur crest farther in the distance near the valley head. The hill in the distance beyond Jumbo Hut is the Baldy – McGregor ridge. Continuing its steady grade, the track briefly contacts the ridge before swinging around knob 801, from which the Carrington Ridge track descends to the Mangatarere (see 7.1). About 75 minutes from Holdsworth Lodge the track regains the ridge near the Totara Flats turn-off. Beyond the Totara Flats turn-off the grade becomes gentler and the scrubby open reaches of Pig Flat are soon reached. A further 30 minutes over the boardwalks brings Mountain House shelter located at (Topo50 BP34 048 701, NZMS260 S26 148 318), the slight saddle where Pig Flat joins the steeper ridge to Powell Hut.
Pig Flat is an old clearing, probably caused by fire and possibly pre-European. It is now regenerating through alpine scrub to one day again become mature bush. The extent of these ancient fires can be traced some distance down both the River Track and the track to Totara Creek. The mature bush recommences abruptly beyond the old burn limit.
Outwards: From Mountain House shelter to the Holdsworth road-end, the track follows easy grades along the ridge then the boardwalks S over Pig Flat. Beyond this, the well-defined track drops past the Totara Flats turn-off and continues down the ridge to the steel bridge and Holdsworth Lodge - about 80 minutes from Mountain House shelter.
Alternatively, from Mountain House shelter, the route travels towards the road-end for 10 minutes and, at the point where the Gentle Annie track climbs R towards Pig Flat, the River Track turns L. It descends through pleasant forest and is a well-padded trail with a gentle grade. (see 6.5) [revised November 2017]
Mountain House shelter to Totora flats
The old trail up Totara Creek on its TR became badly eroded and DOC has made a new track largely on the TL with a bridge over Totara Creek. The old track is later rejoined to reach Gentle Annie Track just below Pig Flat. About 2½ hours. [revised November 2017]
Up Cross the Waiohine by the bridge. (The ford near the bridge is fair and can save time if the water is low and the party large.) Two minutes up Totara Creek from the Waiohine Bridge, the turn-off for Flaxy Knob is passed on the L, and soon the trail squeezes through some large rocks, inhabited by the delightful almond-scented autumn orchid Earina autumnalis. Four hundred metres beyond the next side creek, Totara Creek is crossed by a bridge. The track now sidles high above Totara Creek and after the next bridged side stream climbs 300m before dropping to reach a saddle. This lies between the headwaters of Carrington and Totara Creeks. The trail now steepens but is well marked.
This wide trail was the original cattle trail, cut by Sayer, over which cattle were driven from Totara Flats to the Wairarapa.
About 20 minutes up from the saddle, the bush suddenly changes. The mature forest trees abruptly stop, to be replaced by much younger forest. This is the lower edge of an ancient fire, and its regrowth is one of the better examples of succession forest in the Tararuas. The lower reaches are kamahi dominant, with a good representation of silver beech and Hall’s totara – the high-altitude totara with its conspicuous bright red-brown paper-thin bark. As you progress up the trail, the trees become smaller, relict manuka/kanuka will be seen in the forest, and the needle-leaved dracophyllum makes its appearance. Up beyond Pig Flat towards Powell Hut, the mature forest starts again quite abruptly, marking the upper edge of the ancient damage.
Soon after a short sidle to the L on a small shelf, the top of the climb is reached, 35 minutes from the saddle. Here the grade eases and 7 minutes of muddy sidle brings you to the Gentle Annie Track up Mt Holdsworth. From this junction, the Mountain House shelter is about 30 minutes distant to the L over the boardwalks of Pig Flat.
Alternatively, the Holdsworth road-end is about 75 minutes to the R down the well-graded Gentle Annie.
From the point on the track where the grade eases and the muddy sidle begins, an unmarked short-cut (OT grade) heads directly to Pig Flat; useful if you wish to indulge in the pools of the Atiwhakatu on a warm afternoon. This short-cut climbs straight through the fringe of bush to a ribbon of scrub and joins the main Pig Flat Track at its highest point. The River Track junction is reached 7 minutes later, or the Mountain House shelter 20 minutes beyond that. This short-cut is lightly padded but otherwise quite unmarked. In the reverse direction, at the bush-edge, it is important to swing S and not to go straight down the slopes, otherwise you will miss the Totara Creek Track. [revised November 2017]
Gentle Annie Track to Totara Flats
Down First travel the Gentle Annie Track to the Totara Flats turn-off, 75 minutes from Holdsworth Lodge – see 6.2. Turning W, the trail sidles muddily across bush faces for 7 minutes to the head of the spur leading down to Totara Creek. Ten minutes down from the head of the spur the trail steepens, and 8 minutes later reaches the broad saddle that separates Totara Creek from the swampy headwaters of Carrington Creek. From this saddle, a new and well-marked track climbs 80m before dropping towards Totara Creek; it then sidles well above the stream before crossing over a bridge to the TR. NOTE: This bridge, for some time unsafe, has recently been repaired (November 2018). The first of the grassy manuka flats is soon reached, below which the trail creeps past some large rockfall. From this rocky confine the valley opens spectacularly to the full width of the Totara Flats geological crush zone, though the grass flats themselves cannot be seen from this angle. A few minutes more brings the suspension bridge across the Waiohine River – an hour from the saddle. One minute down the TR of the Waiohine River is the old Totara Flats Hut site and almost immediately the new (2003) Totara Flats Hut.
Following towards Totara Flats proper, the trail skirts inside the manuka fringe of the bush-edge to find open grassy leads onto the flats themselves. Five minutes down the flats, between a grove of kahikatea on the R and the river on the L, cross the rough delta of a stream that drains Cone Ridge, about 20 minutes from Totara Flats Hut.
Catastrophic floods can scour these mountain valleys. One such flood within the last few hundred years created the grassy Totara Flats we know today, over which debris was dumped up to 2 metres deep. The gravel flats left behind were soon clothed with mosses and grass, and are now being reclaimed in their upper reaches by manuka. Manuka is a good nursery plant, encouraging totara and rewarewa in its moister shade. The re-growth on the flats after the ancient floods was last cleared by fire for cattle grazing in 1878.
Although totara is among the most durable of woods, most of the old stumps left by the flash flood have now rotted. A few are still visible and many more locations are marked by holes in the ground on the flats. These can be up to 2 metres deep and are dangerous. Keep to the trail.
Well down the flats, Sayer Creek joins on the TL and a hundred metres up this on its TR is Sayers Hut. Behind Sayers Hut a trail climbs to the visible boundary ridge. A fair ford crosses the Waiohine near the rough stream delta at mid-flats, and a track to Sayers Hut is concealed in the bush beyond. [revised November 2017]
Totara Flats to Cone Saddle
About 3¼ hours from the flats to Cone Saddle, and 30 minutes more to Cone Hut.
Up: The route from Totara Flats Hut to the bridge that crosses Makaka Creek takes about 75 minutes, and after a further steep 15 minute climb reaches the well sign-posted turn-off for Cone Saddle – see 9.5.
From the turn-off the track climbs steadily, rather steep at first then gentling to traverse the broadly rounded summit of 572, and drops to the fault saddle beyond about an hour from the turn-off. Here a gully running SW brings a Clem Creek headwater in 8 minutes. Pick up the track again in the bush about 50 metres downstream on the TR of Clem Creek. The track becomes reasonably graded as it sidles through minor headwaters of Clem Creek, finishing with a short zig-zag to Cone Saddle itself, about 45 minutes from the fault saddle. From the NW end of Cone Saddle the track drops L to Cone Hut?, some 30 minutes distant.
Down: From the SE end of Cone Saddle the track to Totara Flats drops first down a zig-zag towards the Waiohine Valley. Watch the track carefully on the zig-zag, as a false pad continues ahead while the track turns L. After sidling minor headwaters, follow round a spur to reach the major Clem Creek headwaters about 35 minutes from Cone Saddle. In the last few hundred metres to Clem Creek several parallel trails develop.
Ascend Clem Creek 50 metres and pick up the track on its TL, where it heads up a shallow gully to reach the fault saddle in 10 minutes. Occasionally from here one may get a distant view of Totara Flats through the foliage – recalling ancient schemes for a better track alignment to the flats. The track now swings to the SE to pass over the top of knob 572 in 10 minutes. A broad swing of the track brings it round to the NE and, after following a small sharp-sided gully, the track steepens for the final descent to the terraces high above the Waiohine, where the track from Walls Whare to Totara Flats is met. From this junction, the track drops 30m down some minor terraces and, before the farthest edge of the lowest terrace is reached, drops quite abruptly L off the edge of the terrace to reach Makaka Creek below – 1 hour from the fault saddle. For the remainder of the trip to Totara Flats, (see 9.4). [revised January 2019]
Cone Hut to Cone Saddle
Cone Hut to Cone Saddle: 40 minutes. Cone Saddle to Cone: 90 minutes.
Up: The track to Cone Saddle starts immediately by the hut and heads up a zig-zag and the spur beyond for 7 minutes. Here it leaves the old pack track, which branches R to the ridge-line and Walls Whare. The route to the saddle now sidles in and out of several small gullies to reach the saddle 40 minutes from Cone Hut. The downhill journey is a little quicker.
At Cone Saddle four tracks join. From the NW end, the track to Cone Hut and Tauherenikau Valley drops; that to Cone 1080 climbs. From the SE end of Cone Saddle, the track to Makaka Creek and Totara Flats descends; that to Reeves and the Walls turn-off climbs.
Tutwai Hut to Cone Hut
From Tutuwai flats the trail follows over grassy flats and bush terraces; about 40 minutes above Tutuwai it crosses an old slip. At the head of the next grass flats (good camping) the trail climbs a little inside the bush-edge to reach Cone Hut in 4 minutes – less than an hour from Tutuwai. Cone Hut, rebuilt in 1989 in the pioneer style of totara slabs, sleeps eight or so on a bench and an adventurous one or two on the flying bunk. Water is from the stream behind the hut. [revised October 2017]
Smith Shelter to Tutuwai Hut
Up-valley: From Smith Shelter the trail continues up the TR of the broad valley, manuka scrub soon giving way to mature bush, to cross Marchant Stream in 15 minutes. Marchant, as is true of several of the Tauherenikau’s side-streams, can be uncrossable after heavy rain but will fall within a few hours. Beyond this stream the trail rises, but in 2 minutes abandons the old benched track and drops sharply to the bridge. The track further on up the TR side of the valley remains marked but is no longer maintained. Across the bridge, the new route, marked and well used, remains on the TL, mostly at first on bush terraces and away from the river. The short climbs between different levels of terrace can be quite steep – the graded sidles of the old track across the river were made for pack horses. About 100 minutes from the bridge, a bluff provides a good view up the valley. The track immediately drops to cross Slip Stream, the large slip here offering rough travel – part of our earthquake and fault zone heritage – but the trail will be picked up again on the grass flats beyond. It then rises through manuka into bush and generally keeps close to the river edge of the bush terraces. A few minor streams are crossed before the track emerges on the large grass flats below Tutuwai Stream with Tutuwai Hut beyond – 20 minutes on from the bluff. If the flood channel at the edge of the flats is in use, a sidle trail to the hut can be picked up in the bush. There is good camping on the grass flat below the hut. (For the reverse direction, see 10.11) [Revised October 2019]
Tutuwai Hut alert
Access to the Mt Reeves Track through private land on the Waiohine Valley Road is closed.
This is a long term alert, valid until at least January 2021.First published on 21 July 2020. Last reviewed on 22 September 2020.
Smith Shelter to Kaitoke
Outwards: Two minutes from Smith Shelter the trail crosses Canyon Creek and continues, well graded, across several small sidestreams to cross a Smith Creek headwater about 50 minutes from the Shelter. Occasionally slips along the track cause some trouble as the temporary sidles are rough and steep; another part of our fault-line heritage (See 10.1). A short zig-zag leads to second growth beyond the bush, then a gentler sidle to Puffer Saddle. From the saddle, the carpark is reached in 25 minutes – less than 2 hours from Smiths. [revised January 2018]
Kaitoke carparking at Camp Wainui
TTC members are permitted to park cars at Camp Wainui, but it must be remembered that the camp is private land, and not for public use. The following note about car-parking at Camp Wainui and access over its grounds is from Miria O'Regan the Camp Administrator:
"We have no Health & Safety Policy for people using grounds who are not staying guests and who have not read, signed and agreed to the Camp’s H & S and Emergency Evacuation Plan.
We are/were happy to allow Trampers / groups use our area who are familiar with the area, tracks and condition as well as have a high level of bush experience (as well needed) This number historically has been small and infrequent.
We are not onsite 24/7 and cannot account, nor want to be, responsible for people using our grounds for entry to the Forest Park or our Tracks.
However we are supportive of other community groups and for years have had a relationships with the Remutaka Kiwi Project, Tararua & Kaumatua Clubs, Greater Wellington and Individuals studying either Rodent Control, Native Plant Species and Native Bee habits.
The more groups and individuals we give permission to, the more risk we have of non-compliance, and then the possibility of not allowing any access to any group.
- You are responsible for yourselves
- You are aware and have been informed that Camp Wainui’s Tracks have not been maintained, nor in suitable condition for general use. Only experienced Trampers with a high level of NZ Bush experience should enter.
- Camp Wainui Trust or the Camp Managers have no liability should an accident or incident occur.
- You leave in clear sight in your Window Screen:
- final head number of group
- an alternative contact number
- an intention of your intended tramp and ETA and ETD
- you have informed an alternative contact (as well as the Camp Manger) of party intentions
- You text my mobile (027-213 6655) when you arrive and depart Camp Wainui.
- You have prior approval to every Intended Entry of Grounds Access (apart from the Remutaka Kiwi Project)
- No interference with any equipment used for Study or Rodent Traps that your group may encounter
- No markers or signage to be placed without prior approval (apart from the Remutaka Kiwi Project)
Kaitoke carpark to Smith Shelter
From the carpark at Kaitoke, a new track sidles through beech forest and flying foxes before climbing to an old road 15 minutes or so above. Note this turn-off point if planning to return. (Just before the climb begins, a sign leads on up-stream to the old 'Puffer Track', which at the moment (October 2019) is of interest rather than use.) Two minutes along the old road formation, the graded track proper sidles up the western side of the ridge dividing Wellington from the Wairarapa, passing the turn-off to Marchant Ridge and Alpha Hut in a further 15 minutes. Continue round the hillside to reach Puffer Saddle – 45 minutes or so from the carpark. Glimpses of the emerald pastures of the Kaitoke basin below can still be caught through the growing kamahi scrub. The Puffer Track was named in the days when the track followed a steeper zig-zag more directly from the farmland below.
Beyond the saddle, the trail continues generally NE into Smith Creek, sidling through second growth. It then descends a spur zig-zag to reach mature bush and crosses to the TL of a lesser headwater of Smith Creek in 25 minutes.
The trail now stays high, crossing several small sidestreams, to reach Canyon Creek, an open scrubby and often dry streambed about 55 minutes from Puffer Saddle. There is occasional trouble with slips on the last part of this much-frequented track, caused by the earthquake fault alignment. The footpad may be rough and not as safe as the graded track. Signs indicate a high sidle above the slips, but a short spell in the streambed may sometimes be preferable if the slips deter. From here on, you travel up the Tauherenikau Valley; in 2 minutes the Smith Creek Shelter is reached. Smith Shelter sleeps 25 or so in somewhat unpleasant and airy conditions; water is available from a stream and there is a toilet. [revised October 2019]
Most of the graded trails so far are a permanent memorial to the track workers of a training scheme supervised by the Forest Service. These tracks are the home of many orchids in spring and summer months, and the many insect-eating plants may also be seen doing their thing in season.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 New Zealand License.