Track Talk – March 2011

track talkOne great thing about Jonathon Kennett’s recently published Adventure Guide to the Tararuas is that it makes you see your favourite (or at least closest) mountains in a new light. As well as suggestions for tops epics, there are significant chapters on gorge and tubing trips, along with mountain running possibilities. One tramp that he waxes somewhat lyrical about is the Northern Crossing, which must have inspired me to put it on the current schedule.

When we attempted it the weekend before last, Wellington had baked in heat all week and the weekend looked similarly warm. Instead of the usual gale-force wind and rain risks, I was thinking about heat exhaustion and sufficient water. Another great thing about the Kennett book is its promotion of public transport possibilities; something we embraced to make the logistics of travelling from Levin to Masterton more simple. Catching the train to Levin is brilliant – no traffic jam and you arrive at 7. Our group of five were under a fly at the Ohau river by 9pm, ready for a 6am start.

Negotiating the Waiohine Pinnacles (Tararua Northern Crossing)
Negotiating the Waiohine Pinnacles (Tararua Northern Crossing)

More than 2000m of cumulative climb and 10 hours later, we were at Tarn Ridge Hut. The day had been overcast, a pleasant surprise given the high temperatures. But the happy moment of arrival was marred slightly on discovering that the back door’s glass had been totally smashed, perhaps two weeks previously judging by the log book. The hut was pretty wet and unappetising; the mattresses mouldy and dripping. Some energy was mustered to create a makeshift door cover with a groundsheet, tape and an old door found under the hut by the intrepid Illona. We made a mental note to check on Monday that DOC knew of the damage. Unfortunately the wind that blew up in the night meant sleep interrupted by frequent flapping sounds (and also by the arrival of Steve and Jenny at 9pm!).

Next morning raincoats and overtrousers accompanied us over Mitre, with the clag clearing as we descended to the hut and out over the Barra track to the Pines (with even the wateradverse enjoying a swim along the way). To my pleasant surprise, the prebooked taxi turned up dead on time and whisked us to our train. Public transport is more expensive (about $55 in total each for the two train and two taxi journeys) but definitely worth exploring for crossing trips, as is the Adventure Guide if you’re not convinced by the Tararua’s majestic possibilities.

I’ll be looking at that book again as we start to plan the next schedule. During March, I’m after suggestions of road ends that you want to visit over Winter (May – August). You don’t need to specify trips; just nominate a road end you think has potential. I’ll put those road ends into a skeleton schedule, and we’ll be holding a trip planning night on Wednesday 23 March at 5.30pm before club night to figure out the trips themselves. If you feel like adding a bit more excitement and variety to winter, this is your chance! Just email ideas to – keep an eye on our website forum for more details.

It’s also a good time of year to start thinking about building your skill base. Consider recommending our Bushcraft course (11-13 March) to potential tramping friends or family, and think about our Leadership course (1-3 April) for everything you ever wanted to know about leading trips. There’s also our Outdoor First Aid course (15-17 April), run by the best first aid instructor I have ever encountered; places are limited and you can sign up at club. And the Mountain Safety Council is running a River Safety course on 10 April – this is an entry level course with basic river crossing training, including the chance to practice being swept away in a relatively controlled environment (more details can be found at – click on Wellington).

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