Holdsworth-Jumbo Circuit

January 08, 2021

Holdsworth-Jumbo Circuit is one of the more approachable Tararua tramps. It can be split into three sections: a climb up to Mt Holdsworth Summit, traversing a ridge to Pukeahurangi / Jumbo, then descending Raingauge Spur Track to exit along the valley floor. We set out intending to spend one night at Powell Hut then a second night at Jumbo Hut.

This was my second overnight tramp and the first I’ve organised myself.

Day 1

Mostly a slog up a staircase to Powell Hut. The hut sits just above the bushline. We glimpsed it from Rocky Lookout before the clouds rolled in. We had heard that the hut had a grand view out over the Wairarapa so it was a bit disappointing to arrive at the hut with only a few metres of visibility.

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The second half of the first day walk looked something like this: thick low cloud and lots of spooky trees. Here I'm hiding in one.

Day 2

Prayers be answered! I was woken up at 6am by footsteps on the balcony and vivid red sunlight streaming in through the windows. Venturing outside, I was greeted by sunrise between two layers of cloud. The streaks of shadow created by the hills and clouds below was a hauntingly gorgeous sight and one I won’t forget easily. It may well be the most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen.

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The early sunrise was hard to photograph. Here's the view a bit later in the morning.

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Doing stretches on the balcony. With views like this I could have stretched all day.

We set off up the hill and then along the ridge towards Jumbo Hut. We had calm weather which allowed us to enjoy the views. We heard from some seasoned local trampers that such days don’t happen often up here.

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The double-layer cloud sandwich remained all day, and from the tops we retained a pristine view

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Subalpine ridge between Mt Holdsworth and Pukeahurangi / Jumbo

We arrived at Jumbo Hut a bit after midday for lunch. It’s a significantly more crowded hut than Powell with only a single room. We knew the hut was booked out so relaxed around the hut for a couple of hours, waiting see if many people would turn up. Sure enough, more hut dwellers arrived as well as some campers. With plenty of daylight hours remaining, we decided to cut the tramp short and exit that same afternoon.

Immediately below Jumbo Hut is Rainguage Spur Track. It’s a steep, brutal mess of root steps, descending over 600m in less than 2km. Running down here would suck; if you’re running this loop as a half-marathon endeavour to do it counterclockwise so you get to run down the Powell Hut stairs.

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Descending Raingauge Spur

Beyond this, we passed the secluded Atiwhakatu Hut and left along the trail of the same name.