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Trip Reports 2019-04-17-Tarn Ridge Hut

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This article was first published in the Tararua Tramper Volume 91, no 5, June 2019

Not the Three Kings but still plenty of Lion King - April school holidays

17th April 2019

The kids have spent a lot of time in the Tararuas, starting with backpack trips. Missions to Powell and Jumbo, Totara Flats a few times, Field and Kime and an exploration of the main range – unfortunately not as far as the ladder, South Ohau – Waiopehu loop.

The first trip we did together was for Ned’s midwinter 7th birthday – after a late start we arrived at Tutewai in the dark, and celebrated with balloons, party hats and cake. The following Easter their little legs took them up the Marchant to Alpha – a ten hour day, this time arriving in moonlight.

Fast forward five years, they’re almost teenagers and they still deign to tramp with their mums. We were determined to get in an April trip together and Tarn Ridge beckoned – charming hut and all that beautiful tops roaming. Putting the first week of the school holidays aside, we waited for a weather window. On Wednesday we were off.

The Pettus’s are mad keen on musicals and our trips are accompanied by singing. Sage and Ned are performing in the Lion King later this year so that was the sound track for this trip. Way more relaxing than endless games of I spy and 20 questions, and all the fire engine stories I used to have to tell.

A straightforward three hour wander to Mitre Flats Hut was enlivened by a haunting flute melody wafting up – the guy who had left the car park at the same time as us and headed up the river – it harmonised nicely with the bird song.

We shared the hut with a crowd, including the previous Wellington mayor and two lads who had helicoptered in with huge amounts of beer and bourbon. It was a still night, perfect conditions to sleep on the deck and enjoy the moon and then the stars.

Up, up, up … then traversing the 4 peaks – Peggy’s, Mitre, Brockett and Girdlestone. We lunched on Mitre without a breath of wind. The kids loved the scrambly travel and vistas. We got the lot – Kaikouras, Marlborough Sounds, Mt Taranaki, Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and the intricate puzzle of Tararua ridges, peaks and valleys. We were at Tarn Ridge Hut in time for a sunny afternoon on the deck – enjoying the view of the upper Waingawa and next summer’s Bannister crossing.

Celia and Alistair arrived several hours later, a bit bothered by the descent from Girdlestone. Rather than returning the same way we talked them into a Northern Crossing. I assured them the Waiohine Pinnacles would be fine. The next day, on Lancaster, Celia said the Pinnacles hadn’t been fine but she was glad to have done them and be doing the Crossing.

That morning the kids had announced they were going to practise being teenagers by staying in their sleeping bags all day and being “shady and emotional”. We bustled them out the door by 8.30 for another glorious tops day – playing with the ice in the tarns and catching grass hoppers. The Waiohine Pinnacles were an exciting challenge for us too. Lunch was on Lancaster and we returned to the hut for another sun-drenched afternoon; the Sarahs reading on the deck and the kids doing acrobatics in the hut.

Bundled in every shred of clothing we could muster, the ridge above the hut was the place to be at 6pm. We could see the sun setting to the west and at the same time the moon rising to the east. Magic!

The forecast for Saturday was for 40-50 km winds, rising to gale, so it was a 6.30am start. Visibility was patchy and the wind blustery. It felt under control until the descent from Brockett when we were blown off our feet. We bear-crawled the saddle between Brockett and Mitre, sheltering behind tussocks and rocks for the strong gusts. Climbing Mitre was OK and then the full blast across the summit was scary but we got through. Barrelling down to the Waingawa there was some lusty, relieved singing.

Party members
Sage Pettus, Sarah Pettus, Ned Sykes, Sarah White (leader and scribe)

Page last modified on 2019 Jul 19 04:43

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