Mt Holdsworth-Jumbo Circuit

One of the best known tracks in the Tararuas, a popular forest park a couple of hours north of Wellington, the Mt Holdsworth-Jumbo Circuit is a 24km loop running through beech-podocarp forest and over alpine tops. With three huts and an altitude gain and loss of around 1,500m it is usually walked in 2-3 days. I got a little carried away (encouraged by poor weather on its way) and walked it in a surprisingly manageable day.

Flying into Wellington late Friday I drove the couple of hours to the Mt Holdsworth Road campsite to spend the night for the princely sum of $8. The poor weather forecast meant there was only myself and one other spending the night in a campsite that can accomodate up to 150.

Sunrise was a little too early for me at 5am but it filled the sky with interesting cloud cover.

Starting the track by 7am it was quite beautiful, with the light playing on Atiwhakatu Stream.

The track was boringly well graded, with plenty of steps, up to Rocky Lookout for some of the clearest views of the day. Mist and cloud cover shroud the summits in the Tararuas for around 200 days a year, with fewer than 80 clear days a year, so I was glad to get some views, though they disappeared from sight over the next few hours to more typical (lack of) visibility.

There was plenty more hillside to climb, past the Mountain House Shelter, through some stunning forest.

Through and above which there were some good views.

Which improved once I got past the bush line, shortly before reaching Powell Hut. This has now been demolished and a new hut built, as it was at risk in winds greater than 180kph. Amazingly these wind speeds are not uncommon as the Tararuas are one of the windiest places in the country, with other huts in the forest park being damaged / blown away during storms.

The clouds started closing in on my way to the trig at the summit of Mt Holdsworth, the highest point on the track, at 1,470m.

I continued to get a few views before the cloud closed in completely before reaching the securely fastened Jumbo Hut.

The original plan was to spend the night here but I reached the hut by noon and bad weather was forecast for the evening. Instead I decided to have lunch and then continue the track to finish it before 4pm.

Which I think was the right decision as the next section down to Atiwhakatu Hut was steep and relatively slippery, which would have been tricky in the rain, which started to fall but thankfully gently.

After Atiwhakatu Hut it’s back to a well graded track, popular with runners. It crosses multiple streams, all of which have bridges, though oddly each is of a different design. I returned to Mt Holdsworth campsite to spend a second night before flying back from Wellington to Auckland. One way to spend a weekend…

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