Pouakai circuit – When does a tramp become a wade?

When does a tramp become a wade?

6 of us set out on Friday evening from the train station with some trepidation given the forecast for howling gales and torrential downpours to attempt the Pouakai Circuit on Mount Taranaki, leaving from and returning to the North Egmont visitors centre. Frances, our intrepid leader, was (tactically?) injured so wasn’t able to join us.  Saddened but undaunted, we (Antonia, Bernie, Daniel, Stu, Jim and Jue) soldiered on. We stayed at the Camphouse on Friday night: uneventful.  On Saturday morning, we went down to the visitor centre for a last check of the forecast, our hopes of coffee were unfulfilled (café doesn’t open until 9, vital info). Did succeed in acquiring an additional tramping buddy for the group though (Marina, a process engineer from the Black Forest in Germany).

Set off round the mountain to Holly Hut. Fairly easy track, one slip but well marked. Took us one hour less than the DoC times, so 3 hours to get to the hut.

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Declined a game of Carcassonne, but did have some soup to warm up as thoroughly wet. Reluctantly left the fire and pushed on to Pouakai Hut.  Track was well marked and easy to follow, although slightly under water in places. Time to Pouakai Hut: a bit over 2 hours. Waved our German friend off, she walked out to the road end.  Went in search of fuel, but there was no coal or wood to be had. Checked the intentions book, it seems the people before us had tried (unsuccessfully) to burn the coal sacks. Ponder exit options. Decide to be ‘outdoorsy’ and stick it out, hot food helped. 2 friends arrive, Bruce and not-Bruce. Play some very non-competitive cards. Everyone warm enough. Just. Bed early to warm up.

Sunday – Out of the hut at 7:30 wearing every piece of waterproof clothing possible, wet through in around 3 minutes 45 seconds. Minor navigation error, decide it was deliberate choice to do extra uphill to help us warm up. Across the top of Henry Peak, very wet but not as windy as anticipated which was good. Fantastic views, intimately acquainted with what the inside of clouds look like.

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Path good, as long as you like knee-deep mud over wooden track, becomes a bit more Tararua-like after you descend into the bush in that there are more tree roots etc. Rivers running pretty high but all the footbridges were good.  Sent Bernie and Daniel ahead to retrieve the van and pick the rest of us up from the road end to save us a bit of time. Pouakai Hut to Kaiauai carpark 4.5 hours.  Pondered whether a drysuit should be added to the club kit list, or waders maybe?

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