Howletts Hut – Ruahine Forest Park


After camping overnight at ANZAC Park, Norsewood, on the Friday night, we drove down Kashmir Road to the Moorcock carpark (via coffee and breakfast treats at the excellent Café Norsewood – highly recommended!). The road sign isn’t kidding when it says steep gradient, and it took a couple of goes to get the car up the section of road just before the Daphne Hut track. Marie-Pascale and I got out, and with a look of determination, Monique planted her foot on the accelerator and took a run at it. Success. Leaving the two of us to walk up the hill. A good warm up we figured!

We walked in near perfect conditions. The track was good, and including stops to admire the view, it was an easy two hours to Longview Hut. At the Hut we reclined on the deck for morning tea. From here the track sidles around the west side of point 1232m (on the topo map) to Pohangina Saddle and then climbs 350m to Otumore (1519m). This was the highest elevation point for the the weekend.

Travelling across the ridge in windless conditions, we had beautiful views of the snow-spotted Ruahine Range and Mt Ruapehu to the north. It wasn’t always obvious how to get through the patches of dense scrub, especially since the rust coloured waratah posts were cleverly camouflaged against the abundant Dracophyllum longifolium plants. In one particularly maze-like patch of Leatherwood, Marie-Pascale lost her phone. But with amazing luck she managed to find it again after a bit of a fossick!

As the afternoon progressed, the cloud came down and we increasingly lost the views. The walk was still lovely though, with the weather remaining calm and almost balmy. We had been warned that the last 1 km or so before Howletts Hut would be a bash through the predominant Leatherwood. So we were pleased that we had donned long trousers. This part of the track would be very difficult to find in the dark.

Monique admiring the view

Howletts Hut is a cosy 8-bunker owned by the Heretaunga Tramping Club and we found eight of their club members at the Hut conducting a working bee. With the additional three of us, the bunks were all taken. One person had to sleep in the mezzanine space above the door and another slept under the kitchen bench. Nice and warm though. And we didn’t even need to light the fire – even though it dropped to below zero overnight and there was a good frost on the ground in the morning.

Howletts Hut
Marie-Pascale in a busy Howletts Hut


The cloud cleared overnight, and we were treated with 360-degree views of the still snowy higher mountains inland and to the whole of Hawkes Bay towards the coast. We dropped 760m quickly to Daphne Hut. In some parts lowering ourselves over giant steps while hanging onto trees and roots. We couldn’t decide whether ascent or descent offers the easier tramping experience.

Howletts Hut in the morning with 360 degree views

From Daphne Hut, the walk along the river took about 25 mins – longer than DOC information had indicated. Apparently this was because the level gravel beaches that used to run along most of the bank have now gone as a result of Cyclone Gabrielle. There’s no avoiding crossing the river several times and getting wet boots. But we were rewarded with some loud squawking Whio at the confluence of the Tukituki River and the unnamed stream at the beginning of the Kashmir Road track. Then it was up the ridge – starting off steep but then changing to a steady climb.

Track up the ridge

We stopped at the intersection of the track to Daphne carpark and the ridge back towards Longview Hut for lunch. The consensus opinion was that walking across the tops would be more interesting than descending into the bush to Daphne carpark and walking up the road to the car. So we set off to Longview Hut.

The ridge isn’t marked at all ,so should not to be attempted in poor visibility. There really is no track, or markers, for much of the route. We ploughed on through tussock, following the odd pest box, until we spotted poles marking the path we were aiming to intersect.

We arrived at the main Longview track, just below the Longview Hut turnoff, and it felt like a highway compared to what we had been walking on. This enabled a quick trot back to the car.

Timings (including breaks. And searching for lost phone!):
– Carpark to Longview 2 hrs
– Longview to Longview/Howletts/Irongate intersection 2 hrs
– Intersection to Howletts 4 hrs
– Howletts to Daphne 1.5 hrs
– Daphne to Daphne Hut/carpark/Longview Hut intersection 2 hrs 15 mins
– Across tops 1.5 hrs approx
– Longview track to carpark 1.5 hrs approx

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