In the quest to explore more of my backyard, I signed up for the Howlett’s Hut tramp, my very first with the WTMC. We met Dan, our leader, at Platform 9 on Friday evening, to gather along with Tash’s Easy-Medium group heading to Ruahine NP. All eleven of us piled into the van to drive to the Anzac Park campground and spent the evening under the stars.
The morning came quickly, cloudy and grey, but everyone was determined to get some hiking. The team of five attempting Howlett’s Hut dropped off Tash’s group at their starting point and we headed to the end of Kashmir Road. We geared up and set off at 9.30 am. The sun peeking out every now and then as we climbed up. We aimed to make Longview Hut for lunch. The track up was well-formed and easy to follow. We ascended the 800 m to Longview which was located at 1,160 m at 10.40 am just before the wind picked up and it started raining. The hut is above the bush edge but below the ridge line, tucked away from the strong winds.
The forecast called for strong northerly winds and more rain, thus we decided to go with plan B. This plan was the sheltered route in case of bad weather, heading to Daphne Hut via point 1189 on an unmarked route. Byron, our chief navigator, lead the way in the pelting rain. Heading off from the Pohangina Saddle, there was no track and we were on the look-out for a cliff face which we had to keep left. At this point, the wind was strong enough to push us over. Careful to keep our centre of gravity low, we reach a trusted DOC orange triangle in a sheltered route. A small climb up and we saw signs to Daphne Hut. We descended to the river where we joined Tash’s group. They took off to explore a waterfall and we waded the river upstream to Daphne Hut. Daphne Hut is nestled in the trees, located on the bank to the right. This trip over from Longview Hut took us 2 hours and 10 mins.
Lunch was upon us! We took 45 minutes to fuel up as it started to rain again. Just as we were packing up to leave, Tash’s group arrived at their destination for the day. We said our goodbyes and headed towards the start of Daphne Spur. Up we went on this narrow, steep and challenging but well-defined track. After two hours, we finally climbed above the tree line and soaked in the panoramic views. Half hour later we arrived at Howlett’s Hut, hiking a total of two and a half hours from Daphne Hut. Glad to be out of the damp weather, we piled in to the quaint 9 bunk hut. We met one young man from Napier on a hunting mission. We shared stories over some delicious smoked salmon penne pasta dinner, cleaned and crawled into our sleeping bags.
The next morning came soon after with a delayed sunrise as the clouds had dropped below us. We had our breakfasts and packed up to leave via the ridgeline. We set off at 8 am enjoying the panoramic views as we left the hut behind. The beautiful sunny weather and blue sky encouraged a quick pace in an undulating but overgrown track over to Longview Hut. Some of us hiking with bare legs suffered bruising from the over-growth. We had to climb another 300 m to the top of Otumore and then descended to Longview Hut, which took us 3 hours and 40 mins. We stopped for a quick lunch and looked for signs of Tash’s group. Happy to be on a well-formed track again, we descended quickly to the carpark in an hour and five minutes, arriving at the van at 1.20 pm. We waited for Tash’s group before heading back to Wellington, tired but content with our weekend adventure.