Tararua Ranges: Powell Hut

Powell Hut Meetup trip 09.06.2018

‘Tramping in winter you need crampons and ice axes’ I’ve heard. I haven’t tramped in the snow but I want to go have a look. With a small dusting on the Tararua ranges, the Holdsworth-Jumbo circuit is the go – I put an ad on Meetup and a party of five gathers.

I wake at 5am and stumble outside, loading the car to pick up two of our party from Miramar. Groggily shutting the door, I feels eyes on me to my right:

These hours are not for humans

Suitably scared shitless, I spend a few minutes figuring out how to get a tramping back in and out and lock the door without getting close to my furry friend.

We drive 1hr 40 to the Holdsworth carpark. The grass cracks underfoot, and thin ice layers the puddles; it’s been cold overnight! R&J meet us here; they spent the night in a tent. Welcome to it!

C, T and I leave before R&J, too cold to wait. We’ll convene at Powell Hut for lunch, at 1200metres and our halfway point for the day.

We climb the Gentle Annie track, which is true to the name until you pass Mountain Shelter, at which point the last 400 metres elevation are more of a climb. It’s a very popular route, gravelled and stepped; basically great walk quality.

We pass Rocky Lookout at 9:30 (50 min), and are up at Powell at about 11:30, 2hrs 50 or so from the roadend.

Slightly snowy peaks from Rocky Lookout
Less snow than I had hoped for

Poking our windblown faces into Powell, sets of defeated eyes join ours. With 60km gusts, the last bit to Powell was a hands-and-knees affair at times. Beyond Powell the wind screams – folks have ventured beyond, only to return 15 minutes later. It’s impassable. We hunker down in the creaking, groaning hut.

Powell Hut, with its wind-reinforcement bracing. Scheduled for demolition in about 6 months.
Bunks – sleeps 28

Fortunately it’s a serviced hut, there’re logs on the fire and it’s roaring. We make friends with a lovely young German couple whose plans were scuppered yesterday, and just sit around for eight hours. That whole 5am wakeup thing – unnecessary.

The Powell Hut May pole
Powell Hut to Wairarapa
Testing the wind

The evening is spent in good company. I enjoy listening to yarns about Germany and Canada. I have little to add, aside from the dehydrated bolognese for dinner, unfortunately garnished with one long curly hair. J steams us some puds – microwaves be damned – and we retire around 8pm.


I bundle up with a new sleeping bag liner and have a surprisingly good sleep, all things considered.

Morning views are spectacular – unfortunately cheaper cameras can’t do justice.

Powell view, AM
Powell view, AM

One of the four parties aims to wait for the wind to drop late morning and continue to Jumbo – the rest of us are just heading home. It’s a shame to miss the crossing over a few hours, but that’s life – the mountains aren’t going anywhere. T doesn’t want to miss the opportunity and stays on to cross with the other group, and the rest of us head back down.


Beyond Mountain Shelter, we drop down River Ridge and come back along Donnelly Flat. We’re out again in about 2hrs 30.

A wee break at Mountain House

Back in Petone, we drop by the Spig and Fern for a pint and pizza.

Not the most challenging adventure, but a trip into the bush is never wasted, especially with such great company!

Final stop

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