The Southern Crossing is described by DoC as one of the “four classic tramps of the Tararua Range”, and is a trip that any Wellington-based tramper should tackle at least once.
However, in the leadup to our trip the weather looked like it was going to spoil the plans, with gale winds forecast for the weekend – not exactly ideal conditions for traveling along the tops of the Tararuas.
But as the weekend got closer the forecast improved, so on Friday after a quick dinner in Waikanae, we set off from Otaki Forks up to Field Hut.
The hut was pretty full, with two other WTMC groups and various other trampers, but we were all able to find mattresses for the night.
Setting off on Saturday the weather was sunny, but getting up onto Table Top we encountered a strong cold southerly, which persisted all the way to Kime Hut.
At Kime we caught up with the Medium Group heading for Renata Ridge. After stopping at the hut for a cup of tea to warm up, we continued on our way.
Fortunately, soon after we left Kime the southerly started to die away and had disappeared by the time we got to Mt Hector. We took the opportunity to make the most of the sunny and calm conditions to stop there for lunch and enjoy the 360 degree views.
We were lucky to have the fine weather continue for the rest of the afternoon, although the northerly started to pick up as we headed down towards Alpha Hut.
The track was pretty good going, although with some snow in places. This did provide the opportunity for one or two snow angels along the way.
Arriving at Alpha Hut we found that we had the hut to ourselves, in contrast to the previous night. Pete set to work getting the fire light, which wasn’t an easy task as he was mostly working with wet green wood, but he eventually proved his skills and got the fire going.
After a great dinner of spicy vegetable, pita/nan bread and chicken (for us non-vegetarians) and a couple of rounds of cards it was time for bed. Unfortunately, this meant getting out our own sleeping mats as the mattresses in the hut were rather mouldy.
In the morning, we had our tramping ‘lesson’ for the weekend that if you hang up gaiters outside overnight make sure they are secure unless you want the wind to deposit them down in a gully or up a tree while you sleep.
After having breakfast and rounding up the escaped gaiters, we set off in more typical Tararua weather, cloud and a strong northerly. Fortunately we were in the bush for most of the trudge along Marchant Ridge and sheltered from the worst of the wind.
We emerged mid-afternoon at the car park beside the YMCA camp at Kaitoke.
Thanks to Chris for leading, and everyone on the trip for making it a great weekend. For me the Southern Crossing certainly lived up to its “classic tramp” reputation.