A Figure Of Eight Adventure, Eastern Tararua Range
27 - 30 January, 2013
With the Met Service promise of a prolonged spell of blue-dome days, we quickly put together food and gear for a three night adventure in the eastern range of the Tararuas.
We started at the Mt Holdsworth road end and went up the Rain Gauge Spur to Jumbo Hut, where we had a welcome drink and lunch. The afternoon was a sedate tramp up to Angle Knob, where we were able to see the whole of the range displayed for us; and then we leisurely made our way down to MacGregor Bivvy.
Dry leatherwood was easily gathered and one match was all that was needed to ignite the fire that firstly boiled a billy of tea, and then provided heat for our evening meal. It was a special evening at the bivvy, without wind or cloud, and we clambered up the few metres above the hut to watch the sun set and shortly thereafter the full moon became visible over the eastern range. We left the door open for comfort that night – a complete contrast to five years previously when we spent eighteen hours confined in the bivvy waiting for a southerly blizzard to blow through!
We were on our way by seven-thirty the next day and we were well warmed by the time we had regained the 280 metres back up to the ridge top. As we went north along the eastern main range we were grateful for the easterly breeze that provided some relief from the ever-increasing heat. A stop to refill the water bottles from the tarn in the saddle between Adkin and Girdlestone was essential. We realised how fortunate our timing was with respect to the forecast weather, as it was obvious that the water in the tarn would not be potable in coming days of sustained heat. Then we determinedly made our way up the last major climb of the day to have lunch in searing heat by the Girdlestone trig.
That afternoon our rate of travel was not overly fast. After we clambered over the pinnacles north of Girdlestone we turned on to Dorset Ridge and had another welcome drink from the large tarn that is the main feature on the upper part of the ridge. Then it was along the ridge to the collection of cairns that indicates the turn-off for Dorset Ridge Hut. Once at the hut it did not take long for the cooker to be made operational on the out-door table, and a large billy of tea was prepared and relaxedly consumed as we looked out over most of the territory we had traversed that day. That evening was similar to the previous – a slight breeze and a full moon in a clear sky – very special.
Day three dawned clear, with no wind yet again and we began with a cautious descent down into Dorset Creek following the traditional spur route. “Cautious”, because most of the route is now overgrown with long grass and the steepness of the descent meant ensuring secure footing . At Dorset Creek we filled water containers – it was to be the final secure water source until late afternoon. The initial ‘up’ from the creek bed was a typical ‘out-of-watercourse’ Tararua grovel and then we were on the side-spur that took us up to the crown of the spur that rises to what is known as Cairn Peak, just south of South King on the eastern main range. Just below the bushline we stopped for an early lunch – the next few hours would be shadeless. After we popped out into the tussock abruptly (no leatherwood section on the spur), travel up the spur was comfortable. We plodded with a steady rhythm to avoid over-heating; and only when we reached the top of the range did we gain a small cooling benefit from the easterly breeze. A brief stop for energizers on the top and then we headed down over Baldy; down through welcome bush and its shade, and finally a welcome drink from the Atiwhakatu Stream.
When we reached the Rain Gauge Spur track we closed our figure of eight loop. We stayed at Atiwhakatu Hut that night and passed a pleasant evening with a father and son from Raumati, who were heading up to Jumbo Hut to take advantage of the continuing wonderful weather.
It was a different end to the trip on day four - to be having a morning snack at the road-end. However, the entire trip had been somewhat different. Firstly, four contiguous magic-weather days in the Tararuas; a unique routing that allowed us to stay at huts that are not usually incorporated into multi-day trips; and a prudent reminder that dehydration and drinking water management are issues that are relevant even in the Tararuas.
- Party members
- Bill Allcock (scribe), Dave Reynolds