April 12-13 2008
While my trip was set down as a medium grade, I decided it would be a Saturday morning start from the Mt Holdsworth car park, which did mean quite a tight schedule. The weather driving to the Wairarapa was beautifully clear for an autumn morning, though a southerly system bringing light drizzle to the east had been forecast.
Three of us left the car park at 8.15, which at that time was a quarter full.
I figured the party needed to be at the High Ridge turn-off before 11.15 so I had allowed 70 minutes to the Totara Creek turnoff, 5 minutes at the mountain house shelter for a break, 70 minutes to Powell hut with a 10 minute break and 20 minutes to the High-Ridge turn-off.
The weather above 1,100 metres was cool with patchy cloud and a light wind from the north. Coats weren’t required though hats and gloves provided pleasant relief from the cool wind felt as we left Powell Hut. On schedule, the party started down High Ridge at 11.15am. My goal was to be at Flaxy Knob around 1.30pm to leave sufficient time to get down the ridge to Totara Creek which I had been told had lots of wind falls and would be slow travel.
Travel along the open parts of High Ridge was easy though getting into the bush proper required a bash and scramble through and under leatherwood. The route for the most part along the upper reaches of High Ridge runs along the eastern side of the ridge (below ridge height) and a good foot trail can be followed by those with a keen eye. Good views could be seen of most of the peaks of the southern main range.
Lunch in somewhat chilly conditions was brief and taken between 1134 and 1055 where we had views of some of the scarred eastern spurs leading off High ridge. Post- lunch the spur broadened and travel was more in the centre of the ridge.
High Ridge has no markers as such. Along the flatter section round 1054 there are a series of markers which lead to the west and further on a spray-paint lid tied to a tree possibly marks the exist/entry from the spur leading up from spot height 834.
High Ridge continues south until contact is made with the large brown/orange markers and the height has dropped below 1000 metres and the track starts to turn to the left. Time was taken investigating the spurs and markers referred to above so our arrival at Flaxy Knob was around 2pm. Flaxy Knob has a large stone and wooden sign lying on ground with the inscription ‘To Totara Flats’.
I expected the descent to Totara Flats to take about 3 hours, and with the bush getting dark after 4pm on the eastern faces of spurs, I didn’t want to linger. The interesting point about the track leading from Flaxy Knob is that it darts to the left at stages, not always following what appears to be the obvious ridge. However the upper reaches I found to be well marked, though windfalls and growth do mean a keen pair of eyes is required to stay on track. My fellow trampers were up to the task and good progress was made. In the lower reaches orange markers are interspersed with yellow venetian blind-type markers and from about 400 metres care is required as the marked track becomes steep and less obvious.
We made it our business to keep to the track and made good progress in reaching Totara Creek at 4.15pm. It was a short walk to the new Totara Flats hut which was full on arrival, and by the time a further 24 scouts and parents (who mostly slept outside on the veranda or in tents) arrived, somewhat cosy. Patrick Cunnings and the stragglers from the Easy Medium party arrived soon after us. Their departure had been delayed with scones with the ranger at Holdsworth Lodge. An enjoyable and cosy night was had by all.
Sunday was a leisurely stroll back to the roadend car park by 11.15, and it was nearly full. We passed a further 40 PE students from Wellington College on their way to Totara Flats. It is good to see groups making good use of the outdoors and facilities available in the Tararua Forest Park.
All up to get to Totara Flats it took a full 8 hours including breaks at a pace which was probably quicker than medium. A more leisurely approach would have seen Friday night at Mountain House Shelter or Powell Hut.
- Party members
- Bernard Molloy (scribe), Sieny Pollard, and Peter Harvey