Not even close
(Note: This trip report was posted pro tempore 3 years ago)
With the Ruahine Crossing cancelled due to COVID level 2 restrictions, I managed to persuade a number of club members to come out on a private trip with me that had the goal of having a fun weekend out in the hills. One of the options Tony suggested was Dorset Ridge from Jumbo Hut.
The group split in two with the majority of us leaving early Friday afternoon with the aim of walking to Jumbo Hut for the night. Megan and Tony would leave after work and walk to Atiwhakatu Hut and walk up to Jumbo Hut to meet us early on Saturday morning.
As we drove to Holdsworth roadend it started to hail. True spring weather! QR codes at the roadend was yet another reminder that the world was changing around us due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. We headed off to Atiwhakatu Hut and nearly made it all the way to Atiwhakatu Hut without headlamps. We made it to Jumbo Hut to find two trampers already there with a nice welcoming fire for us. We quickly got busy melting snow for water since the water tank was frozen. One of the toilets was frozen shut too. The ‘Sarah Shop’ that was established on the Neill Forks trip that I led in July was closed and not taking any orders from customers as that night I wore every single layer in my pack—consisting of two polyprops, two merino, one fleece, a down jacket, neck warmer and hat.
The next morning while we were waiting for Tony and Megan to arrive we made use of the mobile reception at Jumbo to check the updated weather forecast and saw the weather forecast for Sunday had deteriorated more—and combined with all the deep snow around the hut we came to the conclusion that Plan A and Plan B of getting to Dorset Ridge Hut via the tops or creek was off the cards. Tony then rocked up without Megan which concerned me at first when he said he hadn’t seen Megan at the hut, until I found out that he had actually spent a lovely night sleeping in the Atiwhakatu Hut woodshed and not gone into the hut. He enjoyed the peace and quiet of it and probably had a better night’s sleep than everyone else inside the hut! Not long after Tony, Megan turned up too and we started up to Angle Knob with Plan C of Broken Axe Pinnacles and camping down by the swing-bridge on the track that goes through to Mitre Flats from Atiwhakatu Hut.
By the time we got to Angle Knob, Tony said he thought Plan C needed to be canned too—he thought it might be icy around the Pinnacle’s sidle track and we did all know about the steep drop-offs. It wouldn’t pass what Tony called the ‘What would the coroner say?’ test. There’s a fine line between bad-ass and dumb-ass and we definitely didn’t want to fall into the latter category. We then decided on the possibility of Plan D of High Ridge down to Totara Flats. We started out towards Holdsworth trig enjoying the fact that the two trampers from Jumbo Hut had plugged steps for us. We cruised along to Holdsworth trig not rushing now that we didn’t have any true time constraints. And it was beautiful—amazing visibility with views out across the Wairarapa and over to Junction Knob and in the distance Kapakapanui. Frozen tarns, rime ice. We made it to a busy Holdsworth trig from which we could see Mt Taranaki and the Kaikoura Range. Here we decided that due to the time, we wouldn’t have enough daylight to do High Ridge and moved onto plan E—down to Powell Hut for a late lunch
At Powell Hut for lunch Aimee and Emily managed to find out the coordinates for a secret hut, Pig Flat Hut, and we hatched a plan to bag this on our way past Mountain House Shelter. Just as we left Powell Hut there was some drama in the boot room—one of the trampers who had stopped for lunch had gone to put her boots back on only to realise that someone with similar boots had picked up one of hers and left her with boots of two different sizes! We agreed to keep an eye on people’s boots on our way to Mountain House Shelter to see if we could spot her missing boot making its way down the hill.
The first little bit off-track to Pig Flat Hut was some solid bush bashing but then we came out onto a little track and even managed to find two blue ribbons on our way down, and with a little help from Mr. Garmin who even helpfully gave us our estimated arrival time at the hut. Someone had gone to some serious work to carry in all the corrugated iron for it. It was a fun detour to find it but I wouldn’t recommend it as a place to spend the night.
Back on the track again, everyone was keen to spend another night out in the bush and have the vegetarian shepherd’s pie that was the communal dinner so we decided to go and camp at Donnelly Flat for the night. I had been on night shifts so was a bit sleep deprived and in making dinner I got my words muddled and instead of ‘cayenne pepper’ I managed to talk about ‘canine pepper’—as far as I know no-one in the group has yet turned into a dog after the meal. The instant pudding proved a bit of a cognitive challenge—the cookbook instructions vs the instructions on the back of the packet caused some general hilarity and confusion, mostly with me at the centre. We eventually got the instant pudding made and topped it off with marshmallows as the wood was all too wet to build a fire to toast them.
The next morning, I found it was not just my mattress that had deflated overnight and left me on the cold ground but nearly everyone in the group had an issue with deflating mattresses overnight! We finished the weekend with a super short walk back to the car followed by breakfast in Carterton.
For more photos go to the galleries: