The plan was to do the 25km Pouakai Circuit, a loop from North Egmont visitor centre, with the first day via Holly Hut to Pouakai Hut forming the majority of the one day Pouakai Crossing. Adapting to the highly variable weather conditions (visibility varied from 10m to 50km!) I ended up walking the Pouakai Crossing section both ways.
After some very wet days the forecast wasn’t too promising for the weekend either, though more cloudy than rainy. Mixed blessing as though the majority of my walking time was spent in thick cloud, there were very few other people around.The cloud was quite atmospheric, felt like diving with poor visibility, as rocks loomed out of the grey.
Reading up on the rest of the Pouakai Circuit via the Kaiauai Shelter, and taking to locals in the hut, it is mostly bush, losing views of the mountain relatively early on. So given the ability to now see the mountain I thought it’d make more sense to retrace my steps.
After an early lunch at Holly Hut the weather turned for the worse though and I spent three hours drudging through driving rain on a relentlessly upward path up the mountain side. I past the inviting but private Taurangi Lodge before reaching the empty Matawawa Hut to spend the night. Those doing the circuit or crossing would finish at North Egmont visitor centre.
Few tips if what I’ve said sounds appealing. Normally February is the best month to walk in Egmont National Park, I got unlucky, but it shows the importance of going prepared. A decent waterproof jacket and change of dry clothes for the huts is a must.
The Pouakai Circuit is easiest walked clockwise (via Holly Hut) and do make a visit to the tarns from Pouakai Hut if the weather is good the evening you stay there. It may be worth bringing a tent or travel mattress if you do the circuit over holiday periods or even weekends in summer. DOC have put up a handy tracker in each hut, this is from the sixteen bunk Pouakai Hut will give you an idea. It varies from empty to over Auckland Anniversary weekend 32 in the hut, 4 in tents and 3 on the hill!
The Pouakai Crossing is easiest walked from North Egmont to Mangorei Road. There’s a couple of uphill sections at the start from the visitor centre and after the Ahukawakawa Swamp but they’re relatively short compared to the mostly relentless ascent the other way. While the Tongariro Alpine Crossing is doable (on a good day) in trainers, for the Pouakai Crossing you’ll need better shoes for dealing with mud, slippery boardwalk and rocks, and you will probably get your feet wet. The track is clearly marked but can be narrow in places.