I hurriedly crammed miscellaneous bits of tramping gear into my 40 litre pack as Nye stared pensively on. Following my own weekend plans being cancelled I belatedly attached myself onto a Wellington Tramping and Mountaineering Club (WTMC) that had been rerouted to the High Ridge. The plan was to stay at Powell Hut on the Friday night, rising early on Saturday to head south east down High Ridge to reach Tōtara Flats Hut before returning via the Tōtara Creek Track.
1. Friday night tripping
Holdsworth roadend to Powell hut
The sun had already set by the time we rolled up to the Holdsworth roadend. Nye and I strapped our headtorches on and set off in chase of Mathew and Emily, who had left earlier and were already well on their way to Powell Hut. My boots trod familiar ground. Wind howled through the trees. My gaze was solely focused on the small window my headlamp opened up in the world in front of me. The forest was a swirling mass of energy that I was a very small part of. Legs carried me upward, first past Rocky Lookout, then Mountain House. Nye puffed up the hill behind me as I stumbled on in my post-work trance-like state.
The original Mountain House was built in 1907 by the Holdsworth Track Committee, the first hut on Mt Holdsworth. Situated on a flat ridge below the mountain, the forest around the hut was felled and the hut was contructed using materials from the site. By 1910 Mountain House was further extended to accommodate 40 bunks, with two fireplaces and a horse paddock out front — a testament to how popular the walk up Mt Holdsworth was even in the early days. Despite the turbulent weather of the Tararuas, the first Mountain House survived until 1952 when it was replaced with a new hut by the WTMC, situated 200 metres to the west near the turnoff to the River Ridge Track. Mountain House №2 served several generations of trampers well but by the early 2000’s it was falling into disrepair. By this time Powell Hut №3 had just been built and it was decided by WTMC and DOC that it would be better to replace Mountain House with a shelter, which is how Mountain House №3 came about.
It soon came time to raise our heads above the parapet. We entered a thick whirling soup of…