Mt Holdsworth Jumbo Circuit is a classic tramp in Tararuas and we had been planning to undertake it for ages. Unfortunately, the mountain range is afflicted by strong winds for most of the year and as the best part of the track follows an exposed ridge, it might be quite dangerous with gusts well over 100 km/h.
And so, we had been waiting and hoping that one day the good weather would come. Eventually, after a few previous cancellations, a window of sunny three days appeared.
A start of the track is about an hour and a half drive from Wellington. The track can be done in one day but we decided to split it into two and stay over the night at Jumbo Hut.
We set off early. After signing into a visitor book at Holdsworth Lodge, we carried on along a steep path of Gentle Annie Track. A fresh crispy air cooled us down but not quickly enough because once we reached the Rocky Lookout, a short side trip from the main track, we were both sweat-drenched.
Further, the track ascended gradually up to Mountain House Shelter which used to be a proper mountain hut back in the days. From there, it rose steeply up to the hill and we had to climb a number of steps before we got above the dense bush.
Even though it was a beautiful day, there was nobody around Powell Hut. It was a really good timing because just a few minutes after we had left, a helicopter started to supply the hut with firewood.
From Powell Hut the track followed the ridge up to the Mt Holdsworth trig which offered great views of Wairarapa on one side and Tararua Range on the other. In the distance, the dense white clouds were rolling over the hills like giant waves falling down into deep valleys.
When we descended from the peak and carried on to Jumbo Hut, the cloud reached Mt Holdsworth and covered it entirely disabling any views. We felt sorry for a bunch of people who passed us in the opposite direction and were heading to the summit.
The section between Mt Holdsworth and Jumbo Peak was quite challenging. Despite the favourable weather, the wind gusts along the ridge were strong and the path leading among tussock was hardly recognizable. Besides that, as there had been some heavy rain a few days before, it was really muddy.
At Jumbo Peak, we enjoyed some more amazing views but as the clouds started to roll over the nearest hills, we didn’t stay for long and rather quickly carried on to Jumbo Hut.
A few other people made use of nice weather and at the end of the evening, the hut was almost full. It’s always interesting to see what other people are willing to carry in their backpacks. This time it was a pocket version of board game Settlers of Catan, a big lolly bag and hot chocolate (surprisingly no marshmallows).
The next day morning, after a half of the people met in front of the hut to watch the sunrise, we set off to finish the rest of the track.
The steep descent to Atiwhakatu Hut was quite tiring, especially for our knees but once we got there, the track ran along the river with an easy grade.
We passed a couple of junctions with alternative ways to Mt Holdsworth and after a few kilometers reached the one where we had made the first turn to Gentle Annie Track the previous day.
Just before we arrived at the car park, we walked through the last section of the track, the Donnelly Flat, which is also a great area for picnics and BBQ as there are fire pits available.
Ultimately, it was worth waiting all that time until the weather was reasonable because we could fully enjoy this gem of Tararuas. Definitely recommended!