Circling the upper reaches of the Atiwhakatu Stream
13 February 2019
We left Holdsworth Lodge at 7.45am, unsure whether we could do this trip in the 12 hours estimated.
Conditions were perfect - sunny and still. There was general agreement that the track from Atiwhakatu hut to the bridge had improved, although this may have been due to the dry conditions. The morning tea stop at the bridge over the Atiwhakatu stream was an opportunity to replenish containers and stomachs with drinkable water, which we would not see again for at least 6 hours. The speeds achieved on the track to this point led to one pair of boots overheating and having to be cooled in the stream.
The saddle was reached in just under three hours. The steep climb from the saddle caused further overheating until about half way to the bush line, when a gentle north easterly breeze provided some cooling. Reaching Baldy at 12.10 was sufficient excuse for first lunch. We sat in the sun surveying spectacular 360 degree views of the Holdsworth – Mitre Range, the baking Wairarapa and the headwaters of the Atiwhakatu.
It took a further 50 minutes to climb up to the ridge where we turned left to head for the Broken Axe Pinnacles (BAP). Those of the party who had done this route before were apprehensive of steepness of one part of BAP; those of us who hadn’t were comforted by references to a track to the east of the BAP. A light mist was spilling up out of the Waiohine river valley and lapping over BAP. Perhaps it was the mist, but from the north it was hard to determine where BAP began, and we were not convinced that we were on them until we arrived at the much talked about steep pitch. It looked particularly precipitous and high in the mist. We were relieved to find a wellmarked sidle route around the east side.A jaunty little DOC sign with an arrow and Jumbo Hut on it, might give the impression to the uninitiated that the
hut was just round the corner rather than 3 hours away. The sidle is a vague route marked with blue poles across a steep slope and included all of the following; visibility inhibiting long grass, Spaniard, slippery mud and bare eroding rock. It is however short, doesn’t involve significant altitude loss and does look preferable to the near vertical alternative.
We ascended McGregor through waist high grass and a profusion of Spaniard. The ascent from BAP is so short, and the route off McGregor so gentle, that it is hard to take seriously McGregor’s claim to be the fifth highest peak in the Tararuas. On the top of McGregor the party rejoiced in the knowledge that it was all downhill now – with only minor exceptions.
Second lunch was taken at Angle Knob. This sorts the seasoned trampers from the not so practiced. Seasoned trampers go straight into munching on their carefully selected food and the novices, repelled by the food which looked so appetising at sea-level, cast envious glances at about and indulge in carefully disguised begging.
There was a hui on the top of Jumbo at about 4.15 to decide whether to go down to Atiwhakatu via Jumbo Hut or along the ridge to Holdsworth and down Gentle Annie. The absence of water at Powell and the uphill bits clearly visible on Holdsworth swung the decision in favour of the Raingauge Track.
Brief stops for water at Jumbo and Atiwhakatu Huts were all that punctuated our descent and the high-fives which accompanied the unlocking of the car 11 hours and 57 minutes after setting out. Distance 29 kms, accumulated ascents 2084m, most water consumed by a member, 6. 5 litres, number of boots on trip, 11.
- Party members
- Tricia French, David McNabb, Janette Roberts,
Lynne White, Gerald Leather (Leader and scribe)