Mt Holdsworth in winter

The second time I’ve set out on the Holdsworth-Jumbo Circuit with an overnight pack, only to change my plans during the hike and finish the same day. The first time it was because I overestimated the difficulty and easily walked the whole thing in a day, with typical Tararua low cloud obscuring most of the views, speeding my progress. This time round I walked it in winter with snow on the ground and not a cloud in the sky, but walking with care and photo opportunities slowed my progress so I cut the circuit short after summiting Mt Holdsworth.

On the drive from Wellington there were wonderful reflections on Stuart Macaskill Lakes.

It was a cold start from Holdsworth Campsite, but I warmed up on the easy track up toward Powell Hut.

Rocky lookout is an understandably popular stopping point.

There were a few more views as the tree cover started to thin out with altitude.

Before the hut the ground became frozen, and after a series of steps there was a section of ice covered rock to ascend. Others were passing me in boots but it only takes one slip to make for a bad day so I put microspikes onto my boots.

I’d bought these mini-crampons for the Snowman Trek in Bhutan but didn’t need to use them. They turned out to be perfect for the conditions I faced on the Tararua tops, with too much ice and snow for boots to offer good grip, but too little ice and snow for crampons to be effective.

Feeling much more comfortable I reached Powell Hut for an early lunch. This a new hut opened a couple of years ago, and has an expansive deck with wonderful views of the Wairarapa below.

The best views of the hut were from above, heading up the hillside on a more enjoyably challenging track.

There was enough snow to be scenic but not too much to make it overly dangerous, a balance that can be rare.

The micro spikes helped hugely though my legs would disappear through frozen snow up to my knees in places. All good fun!

I headed up to the 1,470m summit of Mt Holdsworth, one of the most accessible peaks in the Tararuas.

My original plan had been to continue along the tops to Jumbo Hut to spend the night and then walk out the next day. It was going to be a bit of a slog through snow with much the same view though and the weather was forecast to turn overnight, making the thought of returning home that evening appealing.

Looking at the topomap I found East Holdsworth Track, which starts just beyond the summit, and looked like a handy shortcut to return to Holdsworth Campsite in a loop rather than returning the way I came.

This was the most challenging part of the day, a far rougher and more enjoyable track heading down through bush, disappearing at times with tree fall. Next time I’d come up this way as it was pretty steep in places.

It was much easier walking on the Atiwhakatu Track at the bottom of the valley, with a couple of impressive bridges with useful instructions.

After seven hours of hiking I returned to my car for the 1.5 hour drive home. A good day in the hills.

Author: jontycrane

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