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From Powell Hut there are extensive views of the southern Tararuas and Wairarapa Plains. The Waiohine River threads a silvery course between the main Tararua Range and subsidiary range to the south-west. Donnelly Flats and Holdsworth are clearly visible.
Mount Holdsworth is well signposted from SH2. 5 km south of Masterton City Centre, turn right into Norfolk Road, where Mount Holdsworth is signposted. After 10.5 km the road veers left, merging with Mount Holdsworth Road. There is a large camping area at the roadend, 5 km further on.
The start of the track is signposted from the far end of the carpark.
The track passes Rocky Lookout first.
Follow the signs from the carpark and after 20 minutes head left along the Gentle Annie Track. This climbs gently but steadily on a well graded track to an open clearing, where Rocky Lookout is signposted. The vegetation is lower, dominated by tea tree, suggesting regeneration. The absence of tall trees also points to the notion this area on the spur was once cleared.
From Rocky Lookout, the track then continues, occasionally passing more open sections where the vegetation is sparse. Some sections pass under almost pure stands of sliver beech. After 40 minutes, keep right at the junction with the track to Totara Flats Hut. The track now follows Pig Flat, a saddle in the ridgeline, with occasional boardwalks and frequent boggy patches. At the track to the Atiwhakatu Valley, keep left, shortly reaching Mountain House Shelter.
The gradient now steepens and the silver beech forest becomes mature once more. A lattice of hefty roots criss-crosses the track, providing in situ steps. All available surfaces are coated with mosses, ferns and lichens, some draping trunks in garments of green. This is an enchanted forest.
After 1 hour, the track suddenly emerges to a more open aspect, where the vegetation becomes stunted and the rocky outcrops more common . Impressive views accompany the exit from the forest and continue to Powell Hut (15 minutes).
The first Mountain House was originally constructed in 1907 by men of the Holdsworth Track Committee (Messrs J.C. Ewington, W.M. Eashope, Duncan McGregor and Charles Bannister). They used in situ materials, using poles up to 5 metres long and 6 inches (150mm) in diameter. The building was clad in corrugated iron and boasted three rooms with separate men’s and women’s sleeping quarters.
In 1910 the structure was extended to 5 rooms and 40 bunks with 2 chimneys. A major addition included the installation of glass windows. A horse paddock nearby housed the four horses, which ferried paying tourists to the hut. In 1922 a whirlwind took the roof off and a 1938 gale caused severe damage. In 1952 the Wellington Tramping and Mountaineering Club managed to raise £190 in 2 months and a new shelter was constructed on the original site, built by volunteer labour. Today’s structure was replaced in the early 2000s and reflects the building’s humble beginnings.
Powell Hut was originally constructed in 1939 because skiers from the Hutt Valley Tramping Club wanted an area to ski in. Between February and April the 4.9 m by 7.3 m structure was erected at a cost of £260. 120 member were present at the opening and included Ian Powell a founding member of the club.
Following World War 2 many skiers migrated to skifields on Mount Ruapehu. With the declining demand, the hut fell into disrepair. In 1981 a collaboration between the Hutt Valley Tamping Club and the New Zealand Forest Service raised $34,000 for a Lockwood hut. This burned down in 1999, so in 2000 Department of Conservation spent over $150,000 on a new building, delivering the materials in 85 helicopter trips.
North Island ▷ Wairarapa ▷ Masterton
There is this amazing path leading all the way up to the Powell Hut through the bush. The bush is stunning but the elevation is enormous. We went to the Jumbo Hut afterwards. View from the mountain top and fast floating clouds created stunning scenery.
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Great experience to climb this 1470 metre mountain. Bring plenty of water.
Thanks to all the good people working for the NZ Department of Conservation - for all your hard work - making NZ more beautiful, accessable and healthy! Cheers 😍