McGregor Falls MF
Sunday 23rd Feb 2014
From the Colonist, Volume L, Issue 12142, 17 January 1908, Page 4 Masterton, January 16. While exploring the Tararua ranges a son of Mr D. McGregor, senior, discovered a very beautiful cascade, estimated to have a hundred feet fall. The locality is not at present easily accessible, but probably a track will shortly be cut to it. The cascade has been named the McGregor Fall, after Mr D. McGregor, senior, to whose energy mainly the public are indebted for an excellent track to Mount Holdsworth, and the accommodation provided for tourists at the mountain house.†
We arrived at the Holdsworth Road end to very strong winds and clouds of roading dust being blown around the camping and parking area. We saw familiar faces of Dave Reynolds, David Bartle and Ken Fraser who were off to do a trip along Pinnacle Ridge. We chatted about our respective plans.
Our trip had two aims: Ascend the upper steep section of the minor branch of Holdsworth Creek that finishes below Powell Hut. Traverse from the Mt Holdsworth Track at about the High Ridge turn off, down into upper Holdsworth Creek, visit the little known McGregor Falls, climb out the other side up to the East Holdsworth Track and return to the road end.
The very strong winds were a threat to the second aim of the trip, which required some tops travel.
We were off by 9 am and arrived at Mountain House in increasing rain showers. Time for coats and morning tea. We then left the track and traversed around at the same contour to drop into the creek after about 30 minutes of rough sidling. Travel up the creek was sweet. There was the occasional scramble and diversion around choked sections. Time was getting on so we exited the creek after about 200 metres of climb and returned to the track a little below the last long steep climb to the bush edge on the Holdsworth Track.
We were at Powell Hut at about 12.30 for lunch.
Then it was on to the tops. The wind, although still strong, had lessened and the rain had stopped.
We climbed to the High Ridge turn off and then along the flat section of ridge looking for a drop off point into Holdsworth Creek. Colin pointed out the spur on the other side of the valley that he wanted us to ascend as our exit. This was a bushed spur just below a heavy band of leatherwood. So, as we descended, we used this as a guide to aim for as long as we could see it. In the bush the spur was not obvious and eventually we dropped into a side stream that led us into Holdsworth Creek south branch. This was fortunate. If we had stayed out of the creek, entry may have been too steep and difficult. We had a brief look upstream but definitely no big waterfalls that way so it was downstream we went, looking for the big McGregor waterfall and also the forks junction for the north and south branches. As we descended, the creek became steeper and tighter. We were thoughtful that we may have to reverse some of the down climbs if we came to an impassable barrier.
After about 30 minutes we reached the top of McGregor Falls. An exciting and airy place as the stream plummeted into unknown depths.
Fortunately there was a narrow traverse available on the true left of the fall which saw us climb up onto the intervening spur between the two branches of the creek. We traversed around a little before dropping down towards the forks. The last 50 metres of the descent was really steep on a slippery grassy slope with the occasional tree to hold onto. Not a place to let go. To get back into the creek we had to make a final traverse along a narrow ledge about 4 metres above the creek. Colin was ahead and for him to get down the last step to the creek bed he had to hang on to my left foot. We each needed help to get down this bit.
Where we had ended up, the creek climbed back to a 4 metre vertical waterfall bounded by vertical rock walls. So the only view we got of Macgregor Falls was through the gap cut by this next fall. There was no possibility of us climbing this fall to get into the inner sanctuary of the main falls. So the problem still remained for us of finding a practical route to the actual base of the main falls. What a wild, exciting and remote-feeling corner of the Tararuas this place was!
I was also keen to make sure we could find an exit route out of our present position. Downstream did not look inviting although we did not check it out. The whole area was hemmed in by vertical walls 40 metres or more in height. However there was a spur just opposite the forks on the north side which headed off towards East Holdsworth Track. Up we went. We were soon into impenetrable leatherwood. Forcing and pulling a way through this was a great upper-body work out. In 40 minutes we were at the bush edge and soon had walked across tussock to the East Holdsworth Track.
Good time for a rest in the now pleasant and sunny later afternoon weather and some afternoon tea. Two hours took us back to the car and an ice-cream in Greytown.
A great day and an uncompleted challenge.
†Thanks to John Rhodes for the excerpt from the Colonist and also for supplying the Falls’ coordinates (the topo50 reference is BP34 046 719).
- Party members
- Colin Cook (leader), David McNabb, Mike Wespel-Rose (scribe), Alan Wright