High on the Ridge - Totara Creek-High Ridge Slow Fit 1
9 November 2016
We threw on our packs at Holdsworth Lodge, gloating over our good fortune in finding soft, sunny weather, contrary to the gales threatened by the forecast. The broad, well-graded highway of Gentle Annie Track let us warm up in a civilised fashion, with cheery greetings from lots of other walkers, runners and school kids.
An hour and a bit later, lolling about for morning tea on the comfy chairs at the Totara turnoff, we were pleased to have the first 460 m of the day’s climb already under our boots. OK, no more mucking about, down to Totara Creek. We’d remembered this track as being always very wet underfoot, so it was a pleasant surprise to discover well-used, dry footpads off to the side for a good part of the way. Ignoring the turn-off for the ‘new’ track, we zoomed straight down to Totara Creek on the old route.
After an easy crossing of the creek just below the forks, we were pleased to discover a track heading downstream on the true right. We kept to it until we crossed over the first big side stream. Now for our Big Climb: puffing upwards for an unbroken 700 metres on a long bush spur towards High Ridge, off track, navigating north-west with compass and i-Phone. The going was surprisingly good – no supplejack battles, hooray! Partway up the grind we munched our lunch in a pretty patch of dappled sunshine. Good re-fuelling before the final, tougher 45 minutes of the spur, clambering over deep, spongy moss that made for unreliable footing.
A happy moment, popping out onto the High Ridge track with its cheery orange markers, especially for the weary-legged leader who by this stage was ‘leading’ from well in the rear. Through magical, lichen-encrusted ‘goblin forest’, we climbed steadily until we were disgorged into the open alpine meadows at about 1200 metres. Suddenly the weather forecast came true: a blasting, cold north-west gale foiled our dream of basking on the open tops and savouring the glorious views.
Instead, it was heads down and feet thrashing through flax and dracophyllum and all those other beautiful alpine plants that delight the eye but not the legs. Yet another 100 metres of wind-battered upwards slog to go. Teasing glimpses of destination Powell Hut across a precipitous gully, so near if only we were kakas. At last, our highest point for the day, 1330m, at the junction with Holdsworth Track. Phew! A brief pause to enjoy our triumph. Then gallop downhill to the haven of the hut for afternoon tea and shelter from the wind.
The remainder was a relative doddle, in the peace of the late afternoon. Down, down, down to Mountain House, and the easy-peasy gradient of Gentle Annie back to Holdsworth Lodge.
The statistics? Time 8 hours 30 minutes, elevation gain about 1500 metres, distance 22 kilometres. Mighty tired feet, mighty happy hearts!
1 The informal grade Slow Fit (SF) is described in a trip report on p. 16 of last month’s issue
- Party members
- Joan Basher (organiser), Gerald Leather, Bob Stephens, Warwick Wright