This article was first published in the Tararua Tramper in March 1998
Atiwhakatu - South King - Tarn Ridge - Carkeek Ridge - Dorset Ridge
Labour Weekend: 24-27 October 1997
In 1996 a similar trip was attempted from the western side of the range but because of a combination of circumstances it was not possible to complete the trip as it was scheduled. I noted in my trip report that to do the same trip from the eastern side would be a better option.
I had expected a small party of 4 to 6 people since most trips to the heart of the Tararuas tend to generate only modest interest. Much to my delight I had to declare the trip full when the number reached 16. Given the large size of the party it was decided to carry tents for the entire party.
After a meal stop at Featherston we continued to the carpark at the Mt Holdsworth road end. The trip to Atiwhakatu hut is straight forward and short. Atiwhakatu hut proved to be a popular Friday night stopover for about 24 keen trampers. Most of the TTC party used their tents.
The route for day one of the trip was to travel along Atiwhakatu Stream to the Pinnacle Ridge saddle and then up a ridge to Baldy (1326m) and on to a point just south of South King (1531 m). Once on the main eastern range the plan was to follow the range to Girdlestone (1547m) and then travel down Tarn Ridge to Tarn Ridge Hut. The track along the Atiwhakatu Stream has been cleared of slip debris and re-routed over one of the more difficult slips. The track from Pinnacle Saddle to Baldy has recently been cleared and re-marked with the familiar red triangles. Conditions were mild and not very windy up to the bushline, however above the bushline conditions became a little less pleasant as the temperature fell and the wind velocity increased.
Conditions on the main eastern range were not severe enough for a change of plan but some members of the party did find the conditions a bit windy. While travelling along the range there were some good views, in particular to the east and north along the range between the shifting mist. From Adkin (1460m) there were very good views of Mitre (1571 m) and Peggys Peak (1545m). Turning west at Girdlestone the travel along Tarn Ridge was easy in rather mild and calm conditions. Tarn Ridge is a large hut which can sleep about 14 people on mattresses and many more on the sleeping platform. There were two other trampers at the hut when the first of our party arrived.
Day two dawned bright and clear and the party rose early to admire the views of Bannister and Waingawa. The plan for the day was to complete a day trip along Tarn Ridge to Lancaster (1504m) and then down Carkeek Ridge to Park Forks returning to Tarn Ridge via Dorset Ridge. Two of the party who had found the previous day rather demanding, elected to do a shorter day trip to the Tarn Ridge area. By about 7.40am the last of the party had left the hut and were heading towards Lancaster, still in bright sunny conditions. As we proceeded along Tarn Ridge some rather ominous clouds started gathering to the south and light mist started to veil the upper part of Dorset Ridge and the main eastern range. By the time we had reached our lunch stop, Carkeek Ridge Hut, light rain was falling but it continued only while we had lunch.
After a satisfying lunch and a hot drink we continued our descent to Park Forks in dry but overcast conditions. After resting and admiring the beauty of Park Forks the party was ready for the big climb of the day to Dorset Ridge. There appeared to be no clear indication of where to start the climb so we travelled up the true right of the Waiohine River for a few minutes, crossed to the true left bank and started a rather steep climb to get onto the ridge proper. We soon located some old track markers which we followed until the ridge started to level out at an altitude of about 900m. The route was now less obvious and obscured in parts by windfalls and thick second growth. Having negotiated a route through this area, the main ridge was very obvious, rising steeply to 1355m. Late afternoon mist had descended on Dorset Ridge as we made our way past the large tarn and on to Tarn Ridge Hut. A hut warden and his family and friends joined us for our second night at Tarn Ridge Hut, the numbers in the hut having swollen to 21.
The final day of the trip was dry and a bit misty but the sky had a promising look to it. The route we were to follow back to the Holdsworth road end was over Mitre and then to follow the sidle track from Mitre Flats. Our photo stop on the summit of Mitre was shrouded in mist, but by our final stop before entering the bush, the promise of the day had been realised and we were bathed in warm bright sunlight which accompanied us for the remainder of our trip.
The weather treated us very kindly since another club trip in the Holdsworth Jumbo area was unable to be completed because of adverse weather. The heartland of the Tararuas offers some wonderful tramping and it was great that this trip had such magnificent support.
- The party members were
- Yvonne Ashworth, Sarah White, Janie Ohlhaut, Andy Foster, Ken Fraser, Hugh Fyson, Chris Pinfield, Tim Stone, Anthony McNamara, Graeme Cook, Miles Langdon, Mark Sherriff, two visitors, Heike Riefler, Julian Duerr and Dave Reynolds (leader and scribe).