Dorset Ridge MF
21-22 February 2013
“For sheer miserable monotony of contour, rigour of weather, and bleakness of outlook it is difficult to beat the Tararuas” - or so thought John Pascoe. On a good day however, there is no better place to be.
Four of us had taken time away from work to enjoy the glorious Tararuas in spectacular summer weather. We strolled into Atiwhakatu Hut on Wednesday evening, arriving a little after dark to sleep outside on the deck in view of the beautiful starry night. The stream gently gurgled us to sleep.
The next morning we breakfasted and ambled up the river to the bridge and started the steep climb up on to Baldy. On the bush edge of Baldy, one of our party decided to turn back to the hut and wait for our return. This turned out to be a wise decision.
It was hot and hazy as the three of us trudged up through the tussock on to Baldy and further on to Cairn, which is just south of South King on the Holdsworth range. We lunched on the top and made telephone calls to spouses warning of the probability that we would be late out on Friday. Our progress was already a little slow and the more scrambly stuff was still to come. There were cynical jokes about age and how we were not the fit young things we once were but it probably doesn’t pay to dwell on that too much. We were out there doing it in a great place with great weather and in great company. It couldn’t have been better. Other poor souls were at work.
We dropped down a steep spur, the same one a runner recently took by mistake which resulted in a search and rescue. It would be an easy mistake to make in the mist in a hurry. At the bush edge the map and compass came out, just to be sure, and at the 1100 metre contour we branched off to the north to take a spur down to a fork in Dorset Creek. Old blazes were occasionally seen on trees, cut by early deercullers who used this route regularly when Dorset Hut was on the spur to the east of the one it is on now. Dorset Creek is beautiful with big fuchsia trees overhanging large boulders and pools.
After a quick break we scrambled downstream to pick up what was once a track up to Dorset hut. It climbs up through some pretty scruffy bush and is only marked on the downhill going with permolat and even travelling uphill it is easy to go wrong. Which we did. I had warned Cathy earlier that we needed to veer left when we neared a patch of leatherwood and when we did Cathy warned me! Of course I thought I knew better and at the end of a hard day when we should have only been minutes from the hut we found ourselves struggling through some nice Tararua olearia. As Brent said, “you get your money’s worth in the Tararuas”. I was impressed with the tenacity of my companions and when I spied a tunnel in the leatherwood which led to a tussock clearing I said nothing. I knew then that we were only about thirty meters from the hut and I didn’t want to deprive them of the relief of seeing the hut by shouting out “there it is!” It was a great place to be at last and those first two cups of tea really hit the spot.
We were going to have pasta for dinner but I decided to have rice at the last minute. I’d forgotten the pasta! Luckily some hunter had left a bag of rice in the hut otherwise there would have been a mutiny by now.
We turned off the solar powered lights and hit the sack but at the first hint of dawn we were up and getting ready to go. In spite of the forecast the weather was still pretty good although cooler with a southerly change. We were off at seven thirty and managed to stay on the track such as it was all of the way down to Dorset Creek. We were returning the way we had come and at the bush edge stopped to don parkas, gloves and hats to ward off the cool southerly. We had a quick stop on the top for lunch then onward and downward to a more touristy type of track. Not really my cup of tea, I like a bit of a scramble, a bit of contour and the odd patch of leatherwood. Don’t you?
- Party members
- Brent Harrison, Grant Timlin (leader and scribe), Alan Wright, Cathy Wylie