Waitangi weekend 2015
Jonathan Kennett starts his description of a Northern Crossing with a superlative “This is arguably the best tramp in the Tararua Ranges” and then “On a fine weekend, you’ll feel like you’re on top of the world”. On my first Northern Crossing we knew we were on the tops of something, but the wind and rain restricted our focus to the rock and tussock immediately around us. A trip to Carkeek Hut gave tantalising peeks through cloud as we crested Arete and moved onto Lancaster. This time we set off from Poads Road on Waitangi Day in sunshine and little of the forecast wind. We took the Gable End Ridge track, a steady climb up, with good views once we came out of the bush of the main range and Mt Holdsworth in the distance. Te Matawai Hut was shared with a couple from rural Levin who’d come up a slippery South Ohau.
Next day we set off eyeing the cloud moving in from the south, wondering whether we would find ourselves in it as we came up to the turn-off, and watching its speed. We were delighted to get to the turnoff below Pukematewai and find the Park Valley spread beneath us, clear views all around, and little heft to the breeze. It was such a treat for those of us who had trod the route before but not known what lay around us; for Susan to recall a hard Schormanns-Kaitoke and see what the route from Dundas through Arete to the main range looked like; for Tim and Susan to tell us about the Bannister Crossing and the Twins as we took in their jagged edges. Huts that evoked memories or possibilities were visible: first Arete Biv from above, then Carkeek, then Arete Forks. We savoured the sights – and the alpine flowers. Ours was not a fast trip along to Tarn Ridge Hut!
We enjoyed the late afternoon and evening sun at the hut, and found enough mould free mattresses for our party; the trio who came in later from tenting at Cow Creek Hut via Arete Forks and the Pinnacle spur were not so lucky, and used their foam mats instead. In hindsight we should have given some of these mattresses an airing in the sun. However, the logbook showed few times when more than six mattresses would be needed
At sunset we stood on the ridge above the hut and looked south, a beautiful blue mountainscape, down to the southern peaks of the Tararuas.
The wind rose a little in the night, clattering the latch on the side door of the hut until someone opened the door fully and latched it open (so warm!), but it had ebbed by morning. We set off at 7am, a long day ahead of us, and wanting to get off the tops before the wind was forecast to reach 50km at Powell in mid-afternoon. (The joys of cellphones and being able to check the forecast en route.)
Up most of Girdlestone, down to the south, and up and over each of the Three Kings and the pretenders between them. Dorset Ridge Hut was in view. Thick cloud flowed from the west, sometimes filling the valleys to the south and looking as if it might flow over us eventually. But our good fortune continued: clear views across the Tararuas, as well as east to the Wairarapa and – for those with very good eyesight – the sea. Tim enjoyed tarn water. We reached South King around 11.30am and had the decision to make: continue on (sidling) the Broken Axe Pinnacles, onto to McGregor, Angle Knob and descending through Jumbo, or down from Baldy. The wind was rising and cloud was swirling ahead of us, though not thickly; time could be tight to get to Holdsworth road end when the shuttle was due. So with mixed feelings we took the route down Baldy after an early lunch. And mixed feelings too as we came back into the bush after such a great time on and among the tops, a route which shows so much of the Tararuas: how the rivers flow, the twists and turns of valleys and ridges, how things connect, how all these entice.
So back to Wellington, and an obliging shuttle driver who was happy for us to enjoy cone icecreams from the Featherston dairy. We can recommend Masterton Shuttles (06 377 1923), and Kiwicabs, who took us up to Poads Road (389 9999 x 6114 organises shuttles).
- Party members
- Tricia French, Susan Guscott, Mary Kane, Tim Stone, Lucas Waterworth, Cathy Wylie (leader and scribe)