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Tararua Tramping Club

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Tararua Footprints Northern Crossing

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20 Major Crossings

These crossing trips all involve travel above the bushline. Make sure that your gear and route-finding abilities reflect the possibility of alpine conditions.

  • Severe conditions may be expected at all seasons of the year.
  • Winter crossings will need ice axe and perhaps crampons.
  • Be prepared to turn back if conditions get too tough – the hills will still be there next weekend and you will be better prepared.
  • But don't forget your sunscreen and camera.

20.6 Northern Crossing Ordinary Tramper

The usual start for the Northern Crossing is up the Ohau River to Te Matawai Hut (see 18.11), then across the ranges to Mitre. Five hours to the new hut at (Topo50 BN34 055 816, NZMS260 S25 155 433) (replacing the old Tarn Ridge Hut) and 3 hours more to Mitre. This trip description ends on top of Mitre, from where the route is covered in 5.8. See also the notes in 18.6.

Te Matawai Hut to Tarn Ridge Hut

From Te Matawai Hut the track drops softly past the old hut site, then rises to the bush-edge knob where the turn-off to Girdlestone Saddle is indicated, 15 minutes from the hut. Ninety minutes more of steady climbing brings Pukematawai. Two minutes short of the top of Pukematawai, the Main Range joins from the S: a junction worth noting. The Te Araroa trail turns off here and is signposted. In the reverse direction, the Main Range carries on straight ahead at this point, while the ridge to Te Matawai Hut turns NW.

From the top of Pukematawai, 20 minutes should bring Arete’s summit. There is a small moss soak on the Arete Ridge 100 metres E of the summit. Do not head directly to the Northern Crossing route from Arete without good visibility, otherwise you may end up exploring the hanging valley and waterfall on the S faces of Arete. The better route heads ENE along the ridge towards Dundas and Bannister for 6 minutes, where a slight rocky notch almost crosses the ridge from the R. Here, turn SSE down the face to the Arete Bench and Tarn, with the Northern Crossing beyond. Intermittent metal standards may be seen. The Arete Biv (DOC calls it a 2 bunk Hut) is easily found in good visibility, despite being painted green. In poor visibility, it will be found SE of the Arete Tarn. Fair campsites exist on the Arete Bench S of the Arete tarn.

From the Arete Bench the route sidles a little on the W of .1389, and sidles past Lancaster to reach an iron standard at the head of the Waiohine Pinnacles, 60 minutes from Arete. This turn-off to Arete Forks is a useful escape in storm.

The summit of Lancaster is just off the Northern Crossing route, and the spectacular view from it makes the 10-minute side trip well worth while. Immediately to the S are the glacier-carved Waiohine headwaters: easy travel and good camping. Further distant; the Adkin – Holdsworth Range flanks the E, and the Main Range over Crawford bounds the W. In the far distance the rounded summit of Hector can be clearly visible on your fine day, with Kapakapanui and Kapiti Island lying further W again.

The route over the Waiohine Pinnacles is well padded; though rather exposed and care is needed in snow or wind. In 40 minutes or so the site of the old hut is passed by the big tarn and the large rock.

Tarn Ridge leads S, almost level at first, then the route dips SE through a saddle to reach Blatchfords Cross on the knob beyond in 55 minutes – 100 minutes from the Waiohine Pinnacles. Tarn Ridge Hut is at (Topo50 BN34 055 817, NZMS260 S25 155 434) and lies in a basin on the NE of the ridge between Blatchfords cross and 1435.

Eventually, a storm escape route may be prospected down the spur to the Waingawa headwaters, but the river travel above Arete Forks is presently rough and not easy when high. The route indicated on the edition 2 map, down the upper Waingawa to Arete Forks, is in fact mostly untracked riverbed. OT time to Arete Forks would be around 3 hours in fair conditions.

Tarn Ridge Hut

Tarn Ridge Hut

Tarn Ridge Hut is a Standard hut, located at -40.790643, 175.435936. It has 16 bunks with heating, mattresses, toilets - non-flush, water from tap - not treated, boil before use, and water supply. Bookings are not required, usage is first come, first served.
Tarn Ridge Hut alert

Tarn Ridge Hut unsafe

The hut is currently damaged inside. The hut is still open but we recommend alternative accommodation if possible.

First published on 11 June 2020. Last reviewed on 23 September 2020.

Tarn Ridge Hut to Mitre

Twenty minutes up-ridge from the hut, Dorset Ridge joins from the SW, and another 10 minutes brings the Girdlestone Pinnacle. This may be sidled on the N in winter. Girdlestone itself is 1 hour from the new hut and is well marked with a large survey beacon. From Girdlestone, the route turns NE to Brockett, 20 minutes away and a further 40 minutes brings Mitre. This presents an imposing face to the NW but is only a 15-minute scramble: less than 3 hours from the hut. For the descent from Mitre, see 5.8.

The Adkin – Holdsworth Ridge joins the Northern Crossing route from the SSW in a rather undistinguished fashion about 30 metres before Girdlestone - another junction worth committing to memory.

Emergency exit. From the Northern Crossing in bad weather, avoid the headwaters of the Mangahao. The headwaters of the Park and Waiohine are not so bad but do not offer simple escape routes. Arete Stream offers a fair escape to the Waingawa, but sidle the headwater waterfall on the TR. The gorge just above the hut is sidled high on the TL into the sidestream. From Waiohine Pinnacles or from just south of the old Tarn Ridge hut site, spurs lead into the Upper Waingawa, but many of the sidles are rough if the river is up. From Arete Forks, follow the track on the TR to Cow Creek Hut, then the bridge at (Topo50 BN34 102 829, NZMS260 S25 202 446), exiting to the Blue Range and Kiriwhakapapa. From the saddle between Brockett and Mitre, both the North Mitre Stream and South Mitre Stream have major waterfalls and these are discussed in 5.8. There a few lesser falls lower down in the streams, and some rough going.

Major crossings

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‘IS there frost on my hair, comrade?

is there frost on my hair ?

’Tis the rime of the midnight wind that chills

my hunter's couch on the starlit hills,
crown for my youth to wear.

’Twill be gone with the morning light, comrade,

when I wind my morning horn.’
Geoffrey Winthrop Young, from Glamour of Life

Page last modified on 2020 Jun 08 06:27

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