Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Holdsworth-Jumbo Circuit - 6th-8th February 2014

4 years after we did this trip for the first time, Cody and I decided we'd do it again. Because it's a great trip.

The Holdsworth-Jumbo circuit incorporates some great Tararuas forest, open tops travel, and river valley travel.

We set of at about noon from the Holdsworth carpark. The track initially passes through campsites, before reaching Donelly Flat. From there, the track heads up towards Mt Holdsworth and Powell Hut.

After about and hour, we'd reached rocky lookout. The track is metalled and well maintained due to it's high popularity. It was a blazing hot summer day, which made the modest gradient harder than it needed to be.

Obnoxiously even, wide, metalled track

Really close wood pidgeon

Rocky lookout
From Rocky lookout, the track climbs a gentle gradient to pig flat and Mountain House Shelter. Mountain House was a hut back in ye olde times.
By 2:10, we were at the Powell Hut/Totara Flats track junction We stopped there for 5-10 minutes to hydrate and film. 20 minutes of easy walking later, we were at mountain house.
Track junction and ugly-as-f*ck sign
Pig flat

Mountain House Shelter
We had a break for about 20 mins at mountain house. The next bit of track gets a bit tougher; the gradient isn't as friendly, and there's a lot of stairs. Some would say that the stairs are a helpful addition to the track. Not sure if I agree. The sign at the junction suggested 1/2 an hour to mountain house, and 2.5 hours to Powell. The sign was about right, as we got to Powell Hut at 4:40pm, 1 hour and 50 minutes after leaving Mountain House at 2:50pm.
Powell Hut is pretty large (sleeps 30), has plenty of space, a gas supply, and arguably the best toilets in the Tararuas. We shared the hut with 4 others.


Powell Hut

 We headed off up to Holdsworth Peak some time after 9:30 the next day. The track climbs up through the tussock up to the trig point on Mt Holdsworth. We got there at 11am and sat around for a bit.

Powell Hut

Track Junction

Holdsworth Trig
From the trig, the track follows the top of the ridge between Mt Holdsworth & Jumbo. There's some ups and downs, narrow track through tussock, patches of scree and mosses, and (when you're not surrounded by cloud), fantastic views of the Wairarapa on one side, and the ranges in front, behind, and on the other side. Unfortunately, the weather was not so great on this trip. Although Wednesday was hot and sunny, today we were surrounded by cloud.
We were in no hurry today, so plodded along slowly across the tops, soaking in the atmosphere. After Holdsworth (which was very windy), there wasn't that much wind (which is unusual for the tararuas), and when it died down it was eerily quiet.
We got to Jumbo Peak at about 1:30, and had pre-lunch snacks. After filming sitting around in the tussock, and taking a leak off the top of Jumbo (I used the GPS to find the exact point), we headed off down to Jumbo Hut.

Track junction near Jumbo Peak

Jumbo Hut in the clag

 We had a cooked lunch at Jumbo, and eventually headed off down Rain Gauge spur. As we descended, we came out of the cloud and into rain. Turns out the clag we'd been walking through was rain cloud. Rain gauge spur is steep and rough, which is a little annoying after a while. Part way down the spur is a clearing where the eponymous rain gauge once stood (apparently).

Typical Tararua Goblin Forest

Rain gauge clearing?

At 5:40 pm (an unnecessarily long day) we arrived at Atiwhakatu, surprised to see that the 5-year-old hut had doubled in size. The original hut building (which was almost identical to Roaring Stag Lodge), has been converted into a large communal cooking and dining area, with the new section containing 3 bunkrooms (1x 12 person room, 2x 8 people rooms).

Two of the people we shared Powell Hut with were at Atiwhakatu also. We had fun trying to light the fire, trying to make kindling with a log splitting axe, then trying to light it and realising I'd left all my firelighting stuff at Powell. Thankfully, we found a bottle of white spirits (turps maybe?) along with an ancient white spirits cooker someone had left there and managed to get the fire going with that (but not before trying to blow up the fire box and burn my face off).

The next morning, we left Atiwhakatu at about 11:30. The track back to Donnely Flat is an easy, pretty much flat track that sidles along the Atiwhakatu Stream. All stream crossing are bridged, with the exception of 1 or 2 where the bridges were washed out in recent flooding.
A mammoth new suspension bridge has been constructed over one stream but was not opened when we were there (we used it anyway). It must have been one hell of  flood, as the stream was tiny but the gap the bridge covered as about 4 times as wide.

In places the track was diverted, because the old track has subsided. In other places, parts of the current, recently re-routed track are subsiding due to the slips that instigated the re-routing getting even bigger. 

Snazzy new boardwalk near the nut

track diversion

Swish new swing bridge

tiny stream, massive new flood-generated stream bed

Another washed out bridge

Re-routed track subsiding

 When the track gets to Donnely flat, it eventually meets the Powell Hut track, and the track to the carpark. We got back to the carpark after an easy 2 hours 20 minutes.

Despite the weather, this was still a great trip, and it was great to experience the tops in completely different conditions than the first time we did this trip.

We filmed the 3rd episode of Vaguely Dangerous Wilderness on this trip. Watch it here:


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