DAY ONE

(Testing Ipernity to see how it works as a blog.)


(The Article below is a trip I did a few years ago,
which I need to re read and edit.)

Thu 5 Jul 2007
Woke up at 8am and packed my backpack and left home around 9 50am and drove to Holdsworth Lodge, Tararua Forest Park, west of Carterton.Left approx 1200. (Need to write an introductory para here)

Holdsworth Lodge to Atiwhakatu Hut 1h50m.






Atiwhakatu Hut (All photos taken from previous trips)

Had barely a 10 minute, probably closer to 5 minute rest at the hut. I had tramped in very light drizzle and I was getting cold as my wet clothes were cooling me down quickly, hence only a very short rest stop.


Atiwhakatu Hut to Jumbo Hut 1hr45m (arrived 1600)

My first time up this track for two years, although hard to believe its been that long! I love this track as its my little 'challenge' to myself to see how well I manage it. I was pleased to see that I found it surprisingly easy going - I have been up here before when its been quite hard going, but today I was fine. I am slow but steady and don't stop for proper rest stops - I stop for little rests of 30 - 60 seconds to get my breath back, but not actual rest stops where I stop and rest and take my pack off.

At the end of the Jumbo Track just as you pop out of the thick bush and onto the tussock grass you can see some wooden steps and when you see those you know you are just about done for the day, so they are always a welcome sight! No snow today as I popped out of the bush and into the tussock. About 2 - 300m later I arrived at the hut. No one else there yet. As it turned out no on else arrived during the evening.

As it's cold and gets dark early and there is nothing much else to do, I cooked my dinner at 1730. I jumped in my new sleeping bag (Macpac XP900) around 1830 and listened to the radio (using a spare cell phone with a built in FM Radio.) I switched it off around 1930 so I could drift off to sleep. As I said earlier there simply isn't anything else to do and as its dark and cold, the sleeping bag is about the only place to be. As far as the new sleeping bag goes it worked well - as it should, considering its sells for $899! (I paid a lot less through a friend in the know.) I was warm all night and never in the three nights in it was I cold, in fact I was warm the whole time and never even the slightest bit cold. The only problem was getting it fully zipped up around my shoulders - it took a bit of working out and I had to be a bit of a contortionist to get it fully zipped up.

It started snowing at 2200, but as I have mentioned, I wasn't cold in the slightest. I slept in quite late until around 0900. I woke earlier but it was nice and warm in my sleeping bag and there was no rush to be anywhere in any hurry.





Jumbo Hutt

DAY TWO

Jumbo Hut to Powell Hut via Atiwhakatu Hut and Mountain House Track 6Hr

(arrived 1600)

Left approximately 1030. Decided not to head up and over Jumbo and across to Powell Hut via Mt Holdsworth as too much snow and fairly low visibility. I could have walked up above the hut and had a closer look and I may have been able to make it across. I did a similar trip a couple of years ago and it worked out OK but I'm a very cautious tramper and as I've already done it in low visibility and snow I didn't need to do it again today! I have visions of slipping off some snow or ice up there or coming to grief some other way up there - deep down (actually just under the surface) I find it a bit scary up there at times! Especially the last little rocky bit before the Jumbo Summit - I imagine it would be quite icy and slippery on a day like today. Anyway back to my main point: I headed down the track this morning. It took me longer to get down (2 hours vs 1h45m) to Atiwhakatu Hut than it did to climb up yesterday! I stopped several times to put my rain jacket on then off again, finally making up my mind to leave it on. Firstly it was snow falling off trees getting me wet and then as I descended further very light drizzle, but enough to soak me through if I wasn't careful, and I knew I had quite a long day ahead of me.

I got down to Atiwhakatu Hut and stopped off for about 10 minutes only - any longer and I would have got too cold. I got to speak to a couple of trampers who were also having a quick rest stop before they headed off to Mitre Flats Hut.






Atiwhakatu to Jumbo Track in light snow.

After my brief rest stop I headed off again in very light drizzle along the track, retracing my steps from yesterday for a little over an hour until I reached the Mountain House Track on my right to take me up the mountain again to the Mountain House Shelter. It was quite a hard climb, taking about 1hr25m to the top. I found it quite a challenge and had to stop now and then to catch my breath, never for more than 30 to a maximum of 60 seconds, then I'd head off again. I was quite wet by the time I got to the shelter and the track had been quite wet and muddy, but as they proved over the four days my boots were just excellent. I can not speak highly enough of the combination of my (well waxed pre-trip) boots and gaiters. I stomped through puddles, mud up to ankles (and worse), crossed several streams, stood deep in snow, walked in wet conditions for three out of four days and my feet were just great. My socks were a little damp, but more from sweat than water ingress. They weren't perfect of course, but all things considered I would say my socks and feet were 80 percent dry after the last day of the trip. In fact my anatomical foot insole was dry when I pulled them out of my boots when I got home - now that is impressive. Boots and socks may be a boring topic I know but undertake this tramp and you'll understand my sentiments. If I had worn half fabric, half leather boots my feet would have been absolutely soaked in the first hour of my tramp.







Mountain House Shelter


I stopped briefly at Mountain House Shelter for about five minutes - I was too wet and I risked getting too cold if I stayed any longer - just long enough to re-nourish. I ate two One Square Meal Muesli bars, a relatively new product, and the first time I've used them on a tramp.

I set off on my last effort of the day, the last section up to Powell Hut. I was getting a bit tired by now as I had been walking (almost non stop) for over four and a half hours. Fairly early on I was walking so many steps (say 50 to 100) then having to stop for 10 to 20 breaths before commencing my journey again. It was hard work but I was not concerned or worried as I tried to prepare myself of this during my training. I knew that as I only had a short distance to the hut (an hour or a little more) that my '50 - 100 steps then 10 to 20 breaths' method would get me up to the hut. I would have gone down to two or three steps then a rest before I was concerned. In fact I enjoyed the challenge and was glad of the opportunity to push myself a little, although my limit was still a way off.

After about an hour (approx 1530) I got to the bush line, where the bush gives way to what we call the 'tops' which is where the bush suddenly stops and you pop out onto the tops, which is low scrub and tussock grass. In the Tararuas this seems to happen at the 1000 metre mark and is quite obvious. I 'popped' out onto a fairly narrow ridge covered in snow, about ankle deep, sometimes up to the tops of my boots, but the gaiters kept the snow out. I was the first person up here this afternoon as the snow looked perfect and clean and crisp with no footprints. I am very glad that I had been here before.





High Ridge

I'd have been very nervous not knowing if I was on the right path to get to Powell Hut or not, as it is not obvious until the last 100 metres of the walk. Even though I had done this walk several times I have to say that I was a tiny bit nervous as the track was fully covered in snow including the short scrub just off the ridge. The snow covered the tops of the scrub which was the same height as the track so it was hard to tell where the ridge finished and the tops of the scrub started, as they were equally covered in snow. I was quite glad the visibility was down as this meant I couldn't see High Ridge - I've always found the sight of High Ridge, just off to my left, a bit spooky, so what I couldn't see couldn't hurt me.


If I needed to reassure myself where the track was, I used a process of elimination. I looked in front of me, to my left, to my right and worked out which two views were not the track, thereby deducing that the remaining area of view was the track.

It took me a little longer than usual to get to the hut - this last bit above the bush-line usually takes 15 to 20 minutes, but today I guess it took around 30 minutes. Anyway, I finally turned the corner and caught sight of the hut about 50 metres away and although I knew I was on the right track (no pun intended) it was still a very nice sight!






My First Sight of Powell Hut After Six Hours Tramping


I got to the hut after six hours tramping, with a total of only around 15 minutes rest during the day, and virtually all of it in either light drizzle or light snow, so I was a little tired, but after only a very short time after arriving at the hut I was fine. As I did everyday on arriving at the huts I scoffed down two One Square Muesli Bars immediately on arriving. The other immediate task each day was to get out of my damp clothes and put on my dry set of thermals and down jacket. Because I changed each day as soon as I arrived at the hut, when my body still felt warm from the effort, that body heat kept me warm in my dry clothes. Had I stayed in my damp clothes, they would have sucked the warmth out of me very quickly.

Unfortunately because of the snow and low visibility I did not have a view from Powell Hut which was a shame. On a clear day the view from this hut is stunning - you see the main Wairarapa towns of Greytown, Caterton, Masterton, and at a stretch, especially at nights when the city lights are on, even Martinborough.

I was the only one in the hut, but as it was Friday and it was the school holidays I expected company. However to cut a long story short no one else arrived, so for the second night in a row I had no one to talk to!

Because I was the only one in the hut I had dinner quite early, at 5 30pm, mainly because there was nothing else to do and before it got dark and went to bed just before 7pm and read my local Upper Hutt "Leader" and several advertising brochures I picked up from my mailbox when I left on Thursday morning. I carry these to pass the time in the huts and once I've read them I can burn them if the hut has a fire place, which Powell Hut doesn't as it has gas heating, but the hut that I'm going to tomorrow does. The gas heater in the hut was fairly weak but I placed my damp clothes over the metal barrier surrounding the heater. The heater had a one hour timer, so I reset it about three times to get three hours drying out of it and by the morning the clothes were semi dry!


I didn't feel cold in the hut - the new sleeping bag was definitely keeping me 'toasty' during the night. I guess it must have been cold though as some of the snow that had melted off my pack and onto the floor during the night was ice, rather than puddle of water.

DAY THREE

Powell Hut to Totara Flats Hut 4Hrs

I woke up about 0700 but as I was in no rush and snuggled back into my sleeping bag and dozed on and off til around 0830. I got up and had my breakfast, packed my pack and at the very last moment got back into my 'day' clothes, which were still damp, packed my dry 'night' clothes as quickly as I could, buckled up my pack, put on my boots, text-ed Dave, then left the hut. (Dave is a friend that works at the Rescue Coordination Centre.)

Each time I arrived at or left a hut I text-ed Dave, to let him know my intentions for the day or that I have arrived safely. If I didn't text for a day or two he would notify rescue authorities (I hope!) Dave had also tramped on most of the tracks and stayed in most of the huts that I was doing on this trip, so he was a good choice.

I left the hut with snow surrounding it and walked down the ridge I climbed up yesterday. I had the advantage today of being able to follow the footprints I had left in the snow yesterday. Walking down (rather than up) makes things easier too, as you can see the track and surrounding terrain laid out in front of me. When you walk up a steep climb you are more head down, puffing away, looking down at the track to see where to make each footstep.

After about 20 minutes I left the majority of the snow and went back into the bush and it took around an hour to get down to the Mountain House Shelter that I very briefly rested at yesterday afternoon. I stopped at the shelter for a little rest stop, ate a couple of One Square Meal Muesli Bars, transferred a couple more to my jacket pockets and set off again, but not before some old codger told me that I was being irresponsible for tramping alone in the Tararuas. I guess he may have had a point that I shouldn't disregard too flippantly. I had had a very quiet two days as far as seeing other humans but this morning I got to say 'hello' to a few people as I descended from Powell. I had expected that I would get to have a couple of little chats today as there was snow on Mt Holdsworth and it was a Saturday morning and this usually brought people out onto the track up to Powell.

I left the shelter and walked along a flat section of the track known as Pig Flat, (although we are still about 800m up Mt Holdsworth) for about one kilometre until I reached the turn off down to the Totara Flats Track. The track down to the Totara Creek is a bit of 'goat track' (like a lot of the tracks in the Tararuas) which took me from approximately 800m down to a valley or gully of 200m (providing I am reading my map correctly - its quite hard to read some of the height markings.) The first part of track is reasonably flat until it tips down quite sharply and one has to watch every single step stepping down and over tree routes the whole way.

I enjoyed the walk down to the creek, which took about an hour, perhaps a little longer. It was only my second time on this track and my first time since July 2003. On the first section of the track the tops of the ferns were covered in snow as were the tree tops. As the bush is so thick it is very hard to see any of the terrain around you, although now and then I got to see the hills or ridges opposite me that made up the opposite side of the valley that I was descending into. Watching my height in relation to the odd glimpse of the ridge opposite allowed me to gauge how much down hill progress I was making. To start with I was level with the top of the ridge line and as time went by it appeared to get higher and higher above me as I descended further and further down. The other tell tale sign that I was getting closer to the bottom of the track and down to Totara Creek was the distant sound of running water, slowly getting closer and closer as I descended down towards it.

I got down to Totara Creek and got ready to cross it. I remember the last time I was down here, in 2003, I was wearing my sports shoes, a pair of New Balance or Nike's etc that were thoroughly soaked by now from all the previous snow and mud etc and then I got them and my socks and feet totally soaked crossing the creek. The creek had fairly fast flowing water with a rocky shore and bottom. If I was careful I would be able to step from rock to rock, but I had to be careful that if I slipped that I wouldn't fall into fast flowing water or rapids. I took a couple of minutes to work out my path and then managed to step from rock to rock and get to the other side without getting wet. The water did come up half way up my boots as a couple of the rocks were under the water, but as the boots were well waterproofed I stayed dry, and I love keeping my boots dry! Some people love stomping around in rivers and getting themselves totally soaked, but not me I have to say, I'm a fair weather tramper as far as I can be!

I stopped on the other side of the creek on a fallen log and had my lunch and a rest stop - a couple of muesli bars and a few slices of cheese. I was being careful today, as last time I did this track I miscalculated it and underestimated it a little. From up at Powell Hut (when the visibility is good) you can see the valley going towards Totara Flats (or it may be Totara Flats itself) and from up at Powell it looks a very easy, flat, straight forward walk, and looking at the map it looks the same. The first time I saw this view and the map I thought I'd almost be able to 'jog' along the track! From my lunch spot at the crossing of Totara Creek to the hut is about three kilometres. The track is virtually dead straight and flat with a couple of banks of five to ten metres to climb up or down and about three small water crossings flowing into Totara Creek. The track though is full of tree routes, etc to watch for when making each footstep - the track is very similar to the Pylon Track I do a lot in Silverstream as far as stepping over routes, around trees, logs etc, except that whereas the Pylon Track is straight up, this track is flat.

Last time I did this track I started getting a little tired but I was too stubborn to stop and take off my pack to rummage around for food for energy. This time however, I made sure I had my lunch before I started this last section of track and I also carried food in my pockets, so I could 'eat on the go.' This track was a very good eye opener for me back in 2003 and because of that I always carry food within easy reach in pockets and I never underestimate tracks or routes by just looking at them in the distance or on my map - so it was an excellent lesson learnt early on in my Tararua tramping days.

I tramped along the track and enjoyed the greenery of the bush on my right and the creek (more like a river) only a few metres to my left. After around 90 minutes I got to the swing bridge, which is a nice sight as it is less then five minutes to the hut.








Totara Creek Swing Bridge

I crossed the bridge, pausing half way to enjoy the views on either side of it, then disappeared into the bush again for barely two or three minutes before arriving at Totara Flats Hut around 3pm or approx four hours walking for the day. The hut was built in July 2003 and although it was now four years old, it still looked brand new. I would have been one of the very first people to have slept in it when I tramped down here back in 2003, and it is hard to believe that this was my first time back here in four years - it felt more like two at the most!

I find this hut very quiet and more 'lonely' that the previous huts that I had been to on this trip. I think its because that it is down bottom of a valley with high hills on either side of it with no views, no cellphone coverage (that makes one feel quite isolated!) and no reception for my little FM Radio.

I changed into my dry 'hut clothes' on arrival but after an hour or so at around 4.30pm it was too early to cook dinner and I had read the couple of magazines I had found in the hut, and because it was fairly cold, I hopped into my sleeping bag and had a rest, possibly even a little nap for an hour or so - there was really nothing much else to do. This was my first trip with my new sleeping bag. When I spoke to a mountaineering company in the South Island a couple of years ago about recommendations they tried to talk me out of the actual bag I ended up buying as they said it would be 'too warm' for New Zealand conditions and it was what they would recommend for Base Camp at Mt Everest - no wonder I was toasty every time I used it and not once did I get cold on this trip!





Totara Flats Hut, July 2003

I got out of my sleeping bag around 5.30pm and cooked my dinner and basically just fluffed around trying to waste time as it was too early to go back to bed and managed to stretch things out until around 8pm before I went to bed - my last night of the trip! Obviously no one else had arrived by this time, so for the third night in a row I had no one to talk to!

DAY FOUR

Totara Flats Hut to Holdsworth Lodge (start point) 5 Hrs

I got up relatively early on Sunday (for this trip anyway) at about 7am. I kind of thought I'd manage on my 11 hours sleep OK! I left the hut at 0840 and retraced my steps over the swing bridge and along the same track as yesterday. I got to the Totara Creek river crossing after 90 minutes and I was going to have my rest and food stop, but I decided to keep on going and take it half way up the upcoming climb. I crossed the creek and braced myself for the next part of the walk - the climb up the steep track that took me and hour and a bit more to descend yesterday. Believe it or not, like the Jumbo track, I looked forward to the climb and looked forward to the test. I walked up the track like I walk all steep tracks, slowly and steady, step by step, and with virtually no rest stops, other than the odd stop to get my breath for 30 seconds, a minute at the most, then kept on slowly plodding along. I actually find this slow plodding gets me to the top relatively quickly. I really enjoyed it and I guess to some people that sounds really odd?

I like climbing up steep tracks as I can see my (vertical) progress very quickly just by looking behind me and seeing how quickly I've made good height by looking down from where I have come from. I got to the top of the climb in an hour, more quickly than it took me to walk down it yesterday, and about the same time it took me the first time I did it in 2003.

I got to the top of the climb and rejoined the "Gentle Annie" track leading down to Holdsworth Lodge, the end point of my tramp where my car was parked. In a way it was a bit sad to realise that my tramp was basically finished: I had a very gentle two hour tramp down to the car. The track was a 'motorway' compared to the tracks I had been walking on for the last few days - I could almost jog down it without too many worries about sprained ankles etc, well not quite, but it was a very easy gentle walk. Like the other times I've cruised down this track after a few days tramping it feels very relaxing and it's nice to come across people walking up it and pausing to say hello and stop for a brief chat. I guess its nice to talk to humans again after being by yourself for a few days.


Today was the first day that I didn't have to wear my rain jacket on the whole trip as the sun was out and with wonderful visibility of the surrounding mountain tops and snow. Once I got to certain bends on the track I could look up and see all the snow on Mt Holdsworth, Powell Hut and across to Jumbo. Powell Hut seems a long long way up when you see it from where I was! It's a sight that a lot of first time walkers up to Powell Hut would freak out at a tiny bit I would imagine! That's if they knew where to look for it, which unless you had someone with you that knew where to look, you probably wouldn't see it anyway - a blessing in disguise perhaps?

One part of me was sad to be finishing my trip, but the other half was quite excited to get back to the car and back into civilisation. I reached the car and dumped my pack and boots into the boot, put my casual gym-type shoes on and drove home. One of the funny things about the car park is that you can not really see the 'Tararuas' so I stopped the car about five minutes after I left on a side road and had a quick last glimpse of the Tararuas. I like to take this 'last' little look as I leave as I like to see where I have been chomping around for the last few days.


I made my now customary stop in Carterton at the local dairy and got myself a coke and the Sunday paper. (I seem to come out of my trips on a Sunday quite often it seems!)

One of the nice things about the trip to the Tararuas is that its a leisurely, easy, and relaxing one hour drive home.



(Need to write a finishing para here)