Tararua Northern Crossing

Day 1: Friday

What started as a planned group adventure, turned into a spontaneous duo escapade when a last-minute COVID-related cancellation left just the two of us to tackle the Tararua Northern Crossing. Undeterred, we met at the train station as planned at 5pm, ready to hit the road. We made a quick pit stop in Otaki for some fish and chips (always a solid choice for tramping food), and arrived at the Poads Road carpark at around 7pm.

We set off, intending for a reasonably straightforward evening jaunt up to Waiopehu Hut but, as we reached the turnoff, we noticed that the track towards the Gable End was open. This tempting option would enable us to skip a hut and go straight to Te Matawai Hut. Deciding we were up for an adventure, we went for it. This was arguably a mistake.

The sidle along the river was pleasant and the slip that had previously closed the track was quite crossable. Soon the sun set and the dark set in. The undulating terrain up the Gable End track made for a long slog, punctuated by picturesque glimpses of the starry sky and the distant lights of Levin (probably better viewed at a distance). By 10pm, doubts crept in. By 12am, we decided we were having type 1.5 fun.

Finally, at 2am, we stumbled into Te Matawai Hut, mindful not to disturb the solitary TA walker already resting. Our impromptu decision had led us to a much later Friday night than we bargained on.

Day 2: Saturday

After our ordeal, we decided a well-deserved sleep-in was in order and didn’t stumble out of the hut until around 9:30am (promptly erasing any gains made the previous night). We were blessed with a near perfect day for traversing the tops, conquering Te Matawai and Arete before reaching Arete Biv around noon and meeting Anne’s victorious Carkeek group for lunch and a key swap.

After lunch, we continued over the Waiohine Pinnacles, enjoying the still perfect weather and breathtaking views. The Pinnacles themselves were a relatively easy scramble in nice weather, but had the potential to get a bit more dicey quite quickly in more typical Tararua weather. Next up was the picturesque Tarn Ridge, which was easy walking with more stunning views.


At 4pm we arrived at the somewhat tired Tarn Ridge Hut. It has seen better days and has a mould covered back wall. But it is serviceable for a night and has a few mould free mattresses up towards the kitchen end. We met some other hikers there, who had spoken to a DOC ranger at the hut earlier in the day and were spreading rumours of a potential replacement for the aging structure in the near future. Fingers crossed!

Day 3: Sunday

We left the hut at a very civilised 8am, embarking on a bit of a scramble to conquer Girdlestone, Brockett, and then Mitre by around 9:30am. Descending to Mitre Flats for a well-deserved lunch, we eventually made our way out to the Pines by 4pm, concluding our near-perfect weekend (except for maybe a questionable Friday night call) on one of the best tramps in the Tararua Forest Park.

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