Jonesing for a challenging solo tramp but still unsure of my current abilities, the weather gods agreed – Saturday was a time to tackle the Holdsworth-Jumbo Circuit, the ‘great walk of the Tararuas’.
I wake at 5:30am and am treated to a stunning sunrise over the Remutaka range driving to the road end. I’m not the earliest out, with some fresher names in the Holdsworth Lodge book.
The low sun is glorious, and I blaze up the hill remembering prior trips to Powell and just enjoying being alone and stretching my legs. Tramping with others is great but I like my company and there’s such a freedom in doing exactly what you want.
At Mountain House I backtrack briefly, interested to find Pig Flat hut which is rumoured to be here-abouts – I’m making good time so why not? But two minutes into the forest has me decide against it – I have a long, unknown day ahead and the cloud is supposed to come in later. For another day!
The Holdsworth track is well-maintained and quick going. At the top, the new Powell Hut is a stunner. A cloakroom, four bunk rooms, slanted ladders to the top levels, an extended and stunning deck, and LIGHTS. So fancy.
I get it all to myself for the few minutes I hang about before heading on up toward Mt Holdsworth. Soon I am in new territory.
For all the tramping I have done now I haven’t hit the tops that often. With the visibility I love surveying the landscape, matching the terrain to the topo maps I spend so long perusing.
I clamber up to the Holdsworth trig and survey the range. I can see everywhere, it is stunning. There’s no wind. It is just the absolute business. I slowly mosey along the ridge North to Jumbo, squelching through the rich chocolatey mud hidden beneath the Tararua tussock.
The only track-finding tip to provide is – follow the pole up the left (if heading north) rather than the wee track to the right. So minor either way but the natural inclination is to go low!
There are three silhouettes before me at Jumbo. I stop at pt 1367 to avoid catching up, and have lunch at Jumbo rather than at the hut. As I sit at Jumbo and identify ranges, valleys and whathaveyou I realise I can do so many without looking at the map. This place is becoming something very special to me. Connection to the land and so on. What a treasure the Tararuas are.
Considering Powell and Jumbo are the same ‘circuit’ the Jumbo route is surprisingly unclear. I actually have to pay attention a few times to stick to the track. But the hut is reached, and with it the howls of what sounds like a tickled chimp.
There are three trampers on the deck. They don’t say hello until I do, and then one just says ‘this track is so busy’. Rude! I take off my boots and enter the hut, and the five inside all ignore me too. I can’t find the hut book, take a couple of photos and leave again. Outside as I re-don my boots, the trampers discuss loudly together their disliking dried apples and other inane shit. I am so not in the mood and quickly depart. I don’t say bye. I never understood those old blokes who just sit about and say nothing, but I’m coming around! At this rate I won’t be surprised should I join their ranks – which I would find quite interesting given my prior tendencies to not shut-up.
I begin the (un-sign-posted from the hut!) Raingauge Spur track. 700metres of relentless hard downhill, this drop is a menace! And surprisingly poorly marked in the upper reaches.
I spot Atiwhakatu hut between the trees and rest a while alone.
My legs have tired now. I had considered leaving via Pinnacle ridge but just no. I begin my bombing out along the stream, the wonderfully kept Atiwhakatu track a real doddle and the volume and variety of bridges keeps one interested. I share a passing chat with the few groups heading to Atiwhakatu for the night – one of which greets me with a ‘Hi Larry!’ – it’s Marty! Nice to meet good folks on the trails after the ‘city-like’ lack of friendliness up at Jumbo.
I am out in 8hrs, 22min. Much quicker than I expected.
A wonderful varied loop, and worth doing as a day walk if you’re of that fitness; the huts are busy and must be booked etc.
How lucky I was on this tramp; lucky I could do it, lucky we have the Tararua Range right here, lucky DOC take such care and make it accessible to so many in this spot. What a pearler!