Anzac weekend in the Tararuas
April 23rd-27th 2008
Anzac day - falling on a Friday - gave the opportunity of a long weekend of tramping and the opportunity to complete some unfinished business from Easter in the form of a visit to Dorset Ridge Hut. The interest in Dorset Ridge Hut stems from the fact that it has recently had a makeover- which has included extending the hut - but that wasn’t all, as we discovered. Being a party of six, we had the potential to put pressure on the six-bunk huts in the area given that it was a long weekend during the roar and favourable weather was forecast. A phone call to a DoC officer soon revealed that no hunters had been flown into Dorset or Carkeek huts. We made our way to Atiwhakatu Hut on Wednesday night to enable an early start up the stream to Pinnacle Saddle and onto Baldy on Thursday.
Thursday was a great Tararua day, fine and clear with little wind, and, being autumn, a moderate temperature. We made steady progress and were able to lunch, albeit a bit after noon, by the tarn on Mid King. This was new territory for some of the party, and the Tararua tops, which are the most striking feature of the range, were certainly at their very best. Good views were possible in all directions and the peaks normally visible from Mid King were all on display. Chris liked the symmetry of Girdlestone but was less impressed by its size. North King presents its own little challenges with a tricky ascent up a rather rocky spine. Once on North King, we headed west until we sighted the small tarn and cairn before changing direction back to the north and headed for Adkin and Girdlestone. The climb onto Adkin is rather gentle and we were soon having afternoon tea by the Girdlestone tarn, which seemed to have less water than usual, a legacy of our rather good summer. Being refreshed, we were in a good mental state to tackle Girdlestone. The first little obstacle is a small sidle to the west to avoid a rather steep pitch on the east side, and the rest of the climb is an interesting rock scramble with no difficult sections. The route to Tarn Ridge Hut is intersected just below the summit trig, and heads steeply down to the Girdlestone Pinnacles, which, while requiring care, pose no obstacles. Tarn Ridge Hut was unoccupied but there was a large stack of food on the bench with no explanation in the log book or explanatory note with the food. Views of Bannister and the saddle to Waingawa were short lived as low mist soon enveloped the distant ridges then the area around the hut. As the temperature dropped, the fire was lit and soon warmed up the hut for a comfortable night.
Dorset Ridge Hut was Friday’s destination, and to fill the rest of the day, a side trip to Carkeek was planned. Dorset Ridge Hut is a real masterpiece and one of the best locations on the Tararua tops is now graced with the best Tararua tops hut. The work has been carried out to a high professional standard: new fire, roof, spouting loo, porch and sink, and numerous other little comfort-enhancing touches. The writer made himself busy during the day, collecting and sawing wood and relaxing with the good quality reading material while the five other members did a day trip into a tributary of the Waiohine. A good leatherwood fire made the hut very comfortable as it was quite chilly outside.
Saturday again dawned bright and clear and we maintained our high standard of early morning starts, up at 6-30 and out the door before 7-45. Our route for the day was down the spur from the hut to Dorset Creek and up onto the Cairn Peak spur and then to Cairn Peak and south over the Broken Axe Pinnacles, McGregor, Angle Knob and on to Jumbo Hut. The spur from the hut to Dorset Creek has a bit of a reputation for being hard to follow in both directions, and as we made our way down the steep freshly cut section, we heard voices to our left; a party of two had spent a night in the leatherwood. Once we had told them where the track was, we continued down the route, which had been well taped but not cut. The foot pad is often difficult to see through the tall grass, Chionochloa conspicua, which covers quite a lot of the route.
Once in sight of the creek, the route becomes steeper but a gentle descent is possible a little downstream of the marked exit. A short distance upstream, a foot pad starts at the base of a slip, which, together with tape, tree blazes and some small cairns, marks a route to crest of the spur from where a well-worn foot pad leads to the bush edge. From the bush edge the spur climbs gently at first and only steepens for the final 50 or so metres. We decided on lunch after crossing the Broken Axe Pinnacles, where we sidled the first big pinnacle and then made our way to a lunch spot before climbing McGregor. One further stop at the Bartlett’s Rocks tarn to replenish our water supplies and then off to Jumbo hut.
Jumbo was all but full soon after our arrival, and it was reported that there had been 60 in Powell on Friday night. After a comfortable night, we again rose at our usual time and headed off for the road end after a very successful trip.
- Party members
- Russell Cooke, Ken Fraser, Chris Munn, Peggy Munn, Janette Roberts and Dave Reynolds