Mt Holdsworth to Jumbo and the Atiwhakatu circuit
The Holdsworth Jumbo circuit tramp is a classic medium two to three day trip that involves travel above the bush line. 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 Mt Holdsworth
Mountain House shelter is situated at the end of the flat ridge and the start of the tall bush. From here the track climbs a series of steeper steps to first emerge from the bush in 30 minutes. A rocky lookout (once known as The Sentinel) just beyond the first bush-edge gives fine views of the Wairarapa and Totara Flats below. Powell Hut snuggles in a ridge-side hollow just above bush-edge, an hour from Mountain House shelter. Powell Hut (sleeps 28) has been re-built and opened 11 July 2019. Bookings are required throughout the year
The series of about four steps in the bush en-route to Powell most probably represent the traces of several episodes of earthquake fault movement – linear sag hollows followed by over-steepened ridge-face. This is part of the Wellington Fault systems that follow from the Hutt Valley to emerge on the upper Wairarapa beyond the Mangatainoka. The Tararua hills immediately W of this particular fault are conspicuously higher than those to the E.
Beyond Powell the trail zig-zags to regain the ridge and passes a marker post at the High Ridge turn-off in 15 minutes. Several tarns on the ridge provide water in all but the driest times, and the 4-metre trig station on top of Holdsworth is reached 40 minutes or so from Powell. The trail from Powell Hut to Mt Holdsworth is FG grade in fair weather only. In winter conditions you will need an ice-axe and the skills to use it.
The route down is trouble-free, but in fog and snow special care is needed to stay on the route above the bushline. [revised November 2017]
Mt Holdsworth to Jumbo
Although the last few metres of Mt Holdsworth can be sidled by those heading N, the summit provides fine views that should not be missed. Ten minutes from Mt Holdsworth's trig brings a slight sidle of the summits of East Holdsworth, followed by a drop to a saddle whose slump features nestle a triplet of tarns. (Heading S, don’t stick to the base of this cleft too far.) The climb over intermediate knoll .1367 brings the summit of Jumbo, a good 90 minutes from Holdsworth.
From here the spur to Jumbo Hut drops sharply off E, leading over a rocky scramble then a tussock descent to the hut some 35 minutes away. [revised March 2017]
Raingauge Spur to Jumbo Hut
This route is well padded and marked. From the Atiwhakatu Hut to Jumbo Hut, about 2 hours in the uphill direction, 90 minutes down.
Up: The trail up Raingauge Spur to Jumbo Hut climbs from Atiwhakatu Hut, but steep faces soon give way to a steady grade. A now over-grown clearing, site of the old raingauge, is passed about 75 minutes from the stream. At the bush-edge, the trail rises above the dense scrubline before swinging N to Jumbo Hut.
Down: From the S end of Jumbo Hut the trail is followed to the next spur S, where it enters the bushline below some isolated beech trees – little more than 5 minutes from the hut. The trail continues uneventfully downwards, crossing a pair of fault traces to reach the steeper faces above the stream and the Atiwhakatu Hut about 90 minutes from Jumbo Hut. [revised March 2017]
Atiwhakatu Track to Jumbo Hut
From Jumbo Hut the ‘northerly’ track descends a bush spur to Atiwhakatu Stream, then down-valley to the Atiwhakatu Hut: 2˝ hrs between the huts. The summit of Jumbo itself, on the Holdsworth – Mitre ridge, is 40 minutes up from the hut.
Up: Thirty-five minutes up-valley from the Atiwhakatu Hut, the turn-off to Jumbo Hut is well marked. After a few minutes on high terraces, a steeper climb eventually passes an open spot (good for a spell), beyond which the grade soon eases off to cross a tiny stream. The grade is better in this pleasant high-altitude bush and soon exits to the bush-edge a few minutes below Jumbo Hut, 2 hours from the river.
Above the hut, the spur leads up through the tussock, then a rocky scramble, to join the Holdsworth – Mitre Ridge at Jumbo, about 40 minutes from the hut. (see 6.3.)
Down: From Jumbo Hut the track descends the tussock edge of the spur NNE for a few minutes, then enters the bush to cross a tiny watercourse 15 minutes from the hut. One hour down the spur will bring the higher river terraces and, in another 10 minutes, the Atiwhakatu itself. Thirty-five minutes down-valley is the Atiwhakatu Hut.
Historic site: Below the tiny stream crossed 15 minutes from the hut, and 50 metres to the north (TL), the site of Spooners' Hut can be found.
Once over the steel bridge, the trail continues on the TR of the Atiwhakatu all the way to the bridge below the Atiwhakatu Saddle. It is benched, bridged, and boardwalked all the way to Atiwhakatu Hut. If travelling directly up the streambed, erosion and slips offer some problems, but at low water the stream may be crossed and re-crossed by easy fords.
Donnelly Flat is 20 minutes from the steel bridge. The track beyond the flat gives fine views of the easy gorge below, and another 25 minutes brings the high wooden bridge across the stream, 2 minutes before the River Track turns off uphill to Pig Flat and the nearby Mountain House shelter. Ten minutes further upstream, a suspension bridge crosses Holdsworth Creek, an hour from Holdsworth Lodge. On the next terrace is the turn-off for the East Holdsworth Spur route. Less than 10 minutes further on is a large slip. The remnants of the original track can be seen heading towards the stream. The track has been re-routed to climb across the slip face higher up. Five minutes further on there is a large bridge crossing a creek bed, and a small suspension bridge is crossed just a few minutes before Atiwhakatu Hut.
Atiwhakatu Hut is an hour beyond Holdsworth Ck, about 2 hours from the road-end. Atiwhakatu Hut sleeps about 28 in three bunk rooms with a large communal area. At Atiwhakatu Hut is the turn-off via Raingauge Spur to Jumbo and Jumbo Hut; and 45 minutes further up-valley is the more northern turn-off to these.
Ten minutes upstream from this latter Jumbo turn-off, the Atiwhakatu Stream issues from its rougher headwaters in the W, where its grade increases. From the last of the terraces on the TR a bridge crosses the stream to the TL. A minute or so up these terraces, a further 15-minute climb brings the Atiwhakatu Saddle – point 670. Here the track to Mitre Flats starts off SE before swinging NE through the basins of Conglomerate Stream (see 5.5). A NW route leads from the saddle to Baldy (6.9).
Eventually the benched track may extend from the Atiwhakatu through to Mitre Flats, but at the moment tracks beyond this Saddle are OT grade. [revised November 2017]
The low saddle, which promises easy access between the NE of Donnelly Flat and The Pines road-end, is a temptation that awaits track development – for the present this is OT+ country.
Atiwhakatu HutAtiwhakatu Hut is a Standard hut, located at -40.868224, 175.454144. It has 26 bunks with heating, mattresses, toilets - non-flush, water from tap - not treated, boil before use, and water supply. Bookings are required.
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