28-30 November 2008
Two cloudless days for a Middle-Northern Crossing? Yeah, right. Yeah RIGHT! And enough breeze to keep you cool without jostling you.
I went to Powell in the afternoon; Neil, Janette, Russell and David, whose trip organisation was impeccable, came up from the evening train. Next morning, Holdsworth, Jumbo, Angle Knob and the spur from McGregor into the Waiohine. Long ago, there was a cut track. Now the route is so little used that not even old blazes and the occasional bright ribbon save you from keeping a sharp lookout for the crest of the spur. At .1000, the spur bifurcates, running in one direction to the mouth of Angle Knob Creek, and in the other, our direction, to Dorset Forks. At first, the work of a one-stone cairn maker (a single clean stone laid on a bed of green moss – surprisingly effective) continued to help. Halfway down is a conventional stone cairn which I suspect marks a route dropping directly into the Waiohine. After that, there were very few track signs. The spur broadens into a steepish face, where we found you need to keep to the right, before reasserting itself as a sharp edge and steepening alarmingly as you near the forks. When VUWTC were active custodians of Carkeek Ridge Hut, they dropped into Dorset Creek before the worst of the spur, as Merv Rodgers also advises, but that looked unattractively steep too.
After easterly rain, the Dorset was as big as the Waiohine, but neither was a problem, and the half-hour to Park Forks was gloriously sunny and sheltered. The two hour climb to Carkeek Hut hardly needed a track, but there is one, still reasonably well defined. Carkeek has the reputation of being the most remote hut in the Tararuas: no one goes there. But they can fly there, and four hunters had, which was not what we’d expected at all. A fly and a hollow in the grass accommodated those of us left without bunks. The previous log-book entry was June, but the significance of that was impugned when next day we realised we had left without making an entry ourselves. Propped outside the hut is the wreck of a helicopter, which, from Tarn Ridge my son Richard and I had seen, or rather heard, hit something as it was landing exactly thirty years ago.
David had promised us a twelve-hour day to follow. I don’t think we quite believed him, but at only thirty minutes less, and wasting no time, he was quite right. So he had us away at six, in time to be out as the rising sun cross-lit distant peaks and nearby tussock clumps. Amagical moment. A stop on Lancaster to confirm Merv’s opinion that it is one of the finest vantage points in the Tararuas, and an inspection of the new Arete Biv (still only two bunks, but roomy) and of the new South Ohau Hut (a good deal roomier, and with vegetation swept away from its precincts - a totally different experience from the claustrophobic old one). Russell and Janette had made their car available, and Dave Reynolds had very kindly offered to drive up to meet us. As we crossed the last paddock, there he was coming up Poad’s Road. Did I say well organised?