First of all here’s the stats from Richard’s GPS:

Sat 23 Aug 14

09:55 – 16:30 hrs

From Holdsworth Road End to Powell Hut and top excursion.
Distance: 11.1km
Average Speed: 2.3 km/h
Min Elevation 300m
Max Elevation: 1425m
Height climbed 1500m
Height Descended: 630m

Sun 24 Aug 14
08:05 – 14:00 hrs
Mt Holdsworth top excursion and Powell Hut to Holdsworth Road End
Distance 11.8km
Average Speed: 2.3 km/h
Min Elevation: 300m
Max Elevation: 1450m
Height climbed 560mm
Height Descended: 1470m

This trip started off life as an Easy-Medium Jumbo-Powell circuit, heading to Atiwhakatu Hut on Friday night led by the lovely Jo. Weather and illness meant it finished up with only the Easy-Medium part intact. After some last minute swapping of leader notes, Richard and I collected the van on Saturday morning. With all happy trampers in the van Richard said “we’re missing one person…and that’s Jo!” A quick check that everyone had their communal gear and wet weather clothing and we were off.

A forecast of gale force winds, rain and snow on the tops had caused Jo to wisely change the route plan earlier in the week. So our plan now was to head up to Powell Hut and back, with the possibility of some further ascent up to Mount Holdsworth on either Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning depending on the conditions.

Around 10am we set off up the Gentle Annie track winding our way upwards and stopping at the Rocky Lookout to check out the clouds above and the view back to the carpark below.

First break - Rocky Lookout
First break – Rocky Lookout

Over lunch at Mountain House Shelter in a bit of rain we were all pleased that WTMC had had the foresight and kindness to build something so handy.

Lunch at Mountain House Shelter
Lunch at Mountain House Shelter

Over the next two hours we climbed many a staircase on the way up to Powell. It was then hoods up and heads down for the last 20mins out of the bush in strong winds and with some snow on the track until we reached the hut.

Others had already got the fire going, but the wood supplies were wet so Richard and Weimin got going on chopping up some smaller chunks to bring inside to dry out. Meanwhile we all topped up with hot drinks and snacks wishing we had also brought bacon like the military man who’d overtaken us on the way up – the smell was making me hungry.

Five of us decided there was enough of the afternoon left to at least check out what the snow was like on the tops, so we togged up and headed out. It was pretty windy, and while it wasn’t raining, the water in the clouds we were walking through did a good job of making it feel like it! The snow was soft enough for us to make good progress without crampons and we had a great hour or so occasionally ending up knee deep in it! We abandoned any attempt at reaching Mount Holdsworth itself, partly on the grounds that the view wouldn’t be any different anyway, and partly because it was wet, windy and the visibility wasn’t great. Back to the hut for more hot drinks!

Wet and cold but still smiling on the tops
Wet and cold but still smiling on the tops

Everyone helped out chopping a billy-full of vegetables for dinner. Yao hinted that Weimin’s rice-cooking skills were top-notch and the tip-off proved correct. Yum and yum! It was still early, and several people had spotted the yellow bananagrams bag I had brought along…everyone joined in, and by the last round some of our fellow hut-mates were keen to know what all the fuss was about. Deborah turns out to be a whizz at this game, but she had stiff competition from some very impressive efforts from those working in their second language….and there were a few more colourful words from the same person who brought the bacon.

Next morning the sky was clear and we were above the cloud. Weimin and Yao made a very sneaky early start to photograph the sunrise from the tops.

Powell Hut in the morning light
Powell Hut in the morning light

And another four of us couldn’t resist a second attempt at Holdsworth in the clear conditions. Sarah quipped “I didn’t realise I was signing up to a ski trip!” as she borrowed waterproof gloves and sunglasses to join us. We made good progress in our footsteps from the previous afternoon, but the snow was hard, and icy in places so we didn’t quite reach the top – choosing rather to return safely than risk someone sliding. Another group were behind us coming up from the hut, and one of them took the opportunity to turn back with us. She also didn’t have crampons and didn’t fancy the rest of the ridge walk that her companions were planning.

About as far as we got
About as far as we got
Heading off for our second attempt at Holdsworth
Heading off for our second attempt at Holdsworth

Back at the hut again there was time for more hot drinks – we definitely made good use of the gas at Powell – and final packing up before we headed down. We took the initial descent cautiously, as the steps were a little icier than the day before. The further down we got, the faster our pace became and we made good time back to the carpark with a quick lunch stop at the rocky lookout.

The trip was great fun, and it was nice to have some new faces along for the first time. No one was keen to write the whole trip report, so I asked if anyone would like to sum up the trip and here’s what I got:

Sarah who was on her first trip with the club said; “This was a great outdoor trip but also a great social experience.”

Yao was also brimming with enthusiasm; “My worries about the change of leader dissolved immediately after we jumped out of the van. The entire trip flowed with ease. Everyone was so easy going and there was no fuss. Our leaders Richard and Emily were so caring and supportive. I saw the most beautiful morning on the snow; I learned to play Bananagrams and I’m hooked. I would love the do this all over again with you guys.”

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