8-10 October 1999
The met service weather forecast for this trip was, to say the least rather mixed with widespread rain for Friday night clearing by Saturday afternoon and fine on Sunday; but we were aware that the conditions for the Tararuas are often understated.
On our arrival at the Featherston fish and chip shop we were soon put right by the proprietor who informed us that his wife had looked out the window during the afternoon when it clouded over for a while and that, we were informed, was the met service rain and the rest of the weekend would be fine. This opinion was restated by the caretaker when we paid our Holdsworth Lodge fees later in the evening. 'The message was loud and clear - never underrate local knowledge.
Saturday was, as we had been informed, a warm windless day. We made our way up the Atiwhakatu Valley to Pinnacle Saddle and then over Baldy and up to South King where we rested for lunch. Given the conditions there was only one realistic option, which was to go to Dorset Ridge via the Kings and Girdlestone.
The afternoon was punctuated by stops at Mid King Tarn for water, Adkin to admire the views, the Girdlestone Tarn for water and Girdlestone for views. After traversing the Girdlestone pinnacles we reached the Dorset Ridge turn-off and had our next stop at the Dorset Ridge Tarn where we filled water bottles in case the hut tank was low as was the case at Jumbo Hut. A notice at Holdsworth Lodge had alerted us to this.
On reaching the turn-off to the hut the view into the Northern Tararuas, which had been covered in mist earlier in the day, had cleared giving the most magnificent views of Bannister, The Twins, Arete, Dundas and Carkeek Ridge. This was a place to spend some time admiring and photographing the views before starting the descent to the hut, which we found unoccupied and with a full water tank.
After feasting on generous helpings of a pot luck stew we retired for a well earned night's sleep after an 11 hour day. The view is the best of any hut in the Tararua Forest Park, and I may have some more members of the Dorset Ridge fan club after this trip.
Sunday was another great day. After an early start we made our way to Dorset Creek and up onto the spur leading to Cairn Peak. Travel down from the hut has been made easier by a few more bits of red tape, not my doing, but much appreciated. From the creek all routes led up to Cairn Peak and the bush edge is reached after about 45 minutes of easy travel. Once in the tussock the gradient is rather gentle until the last 50 metres or so, where there is a little grunt to Cairn Peak. During our ascent we noticed a group of trampers traversing the Broken Axe Pinnacles and making slow going of the biggest and rather awkward pinnacle. By the time we reached the pinnacles they were just completing their descent and much to Colin's horror they had not heard the rugby score. Once over the Broken Axe Pinnacles we headed for Bartlett's Rocks and lunch on the lee side of McGregor by the tarn. After lunch our next stop was Jumbo Hut where we found enough water in the small tank on the south side of the hut to have a brew before we set off for the road end and back to Wellington after a long but most enjoyable weekend.
Party members: Masaki Kojima, Robin Chesterfield, Colin Cook, Tim Stone and Dave Reynolds (leader and scribe).