Jumbo Hut from Holdsworth - Tararua Ranges (Overnight Tramp)
Updated: Mar 11
Saturday 8th January - Sunday 9th January 2022
Location: Turn off State Highway 2 onto Norfolk Road, 2 km south of Masterton. This is signposted and there is a timber processing plant on the corner. Follow Norfolk Road 15 km to Holdsworth road end.
This was probably the hardest tramp we've been on to date, simply due to the stamina required to make it up the Rainguage Spur Track (on a hot day). It is well worthwhile through as you are rewarded with commanding views of the Wairarapa and the cozy, alpine, Jumbo Hut.
The track starts at the Mt Holdsworth car park just out of Masterton. Before you reach the first swing bridge make sure you sign the intentions book at the Mt Holdsworth Lodge.
The first part of this tramp takes you through Donnelly's Flats which soon joins the Atiwhakatu Track. The Atiwhakatu Track is the easiest track we've been on in the Tararua Ranges (to date), it meanders gently alongside a river with numerous boardwalks and bridges to cross.
It's a brilliant first overnight tramp as after 7km (2-3 hours) you're rewarded with the sight of the Atiwhakatu Hut, a big, well maintained hut - perfect for families and new trampers (see our post on Atiwhakatu Hut)
We stopped at the Atiwhakatu Hut for lunch and to study the map with the kids, preparing for what we knew was going to be a grueling climb up the Raingauage Spur Track.
We repacked our bags so all the yummiest snackage was close at hand and refilled our water bottles at Atiwhakatu. It was a hot day and we knew the climb would be sweltering.
The ascent starts almost immediately after Atiwhakatu; on reflection the first part was probably the steepest. Clambering over roots and pulling ourselves up holding onto trees. The little ones held up well with the encouragement of lollies from Uncle Jim, lots of stories and the odd game of "who am I".
As we climbed higher it started to look like the trees were thinning and we all felt a sense of hope - which was quickly dashed as the bush thickened again. As we got nearer to Jumbo the trees began to shrink and were coated by thick moss. The classic Tararua Goblin Forest.
The Raingauge is one of those quintessential Tararua tracks were you must always be watching the makers. It is easy to lose them and if you do you will have to go back to the last point you saw one and look again. It would be easy to get lost, especially up the top so keep an eye out and get the kids involved, they love making a game of spotting the next one.
As energy levels started to wane (1.5 hours in) we started to stop more frequently, we even strapped Miss 7's bag to Dad's backpack. It was amazing to watch her energy change when she didn't have a backpack on. Master 9 was incredible and walked the whole way with his bag (which had all of his clothes, his sleeping bag, water and food).
Finally 2.5 hours later we popped out of the forest into the alpine mountain tops - about 100m on we were rewarded by the sight of Jumbo Hut. The speed the kids covered the last 100m was miraculous.
Jumbo Hut has to be booked, which we thought was great because you're guaranteed a bed (so we left all our mats behind). It has gas cookers, a fire, running water and 2 long drops. It also has spectacular views over the Wairarapa.
Once we'd dropped off our packs, found our beds and refueled we decided to continue on up to Pukeahurangi/Jumbo Peak (the track which takes you above the hut). Walking without packs was a welcome relief and the view was well and truly worthwhile (it's about 30min/2km)
Once we'd returned from Jumbo Peak we had a delicious dinner (venison & noodles and a wild mushroom & lamb risotto, courtesy of the Outdoor Gourmet Company... we always joke with the kids about how fancy their freeze dry dinner is :P - we on the other hand always have a glass of red wine to wash down the meal ;)). The kids were exhausted so asleep before 7pm in a hut full of people.
We woke up early the following day to catch the famous Jumbo sunrise, it did not disappoint. The wind was hallowing around the hut but the balcony was sheltered so we managed to enjoy a cup of coffee (and hot chocolate for the kids) while admiring the suns majestic rise.
Since we were up at 5am we were well and truly ready to leave by 7am. We debated walking a different way back but the wind was so strong we decided that crossing the alpine sections was not for us. Instead we retraced our steps back down the Raingauge Spur and past Atiwhakatu.
We were back at the car by 11am. All a bit exhausted and in desperate need of ice cream and pies.
Absolutely loved Jumbo! Next on the list is the Powell/Jumbo Circuit.
Age of Kids: Miss 7 and Master 9.
Walking Time: 4:10 hours of walking and 5:47 total time on the way in (that illustrates how many stops we had :). The return trip took us just over 4 hours including stops (essentially 2 hours quicker).
Length: 10.5km (each way)
Buggy Friendly: No
Amenities: There are toilets and water in the Mt Holdsworth carpark and running water, toilets (2x long drops) and a fireplace at Atiwhakatu hut. Jumbo has running water, gas hobs, a fireplace and toilets (2x long drops). We always bring our own cooker though just encase the gas runs out at the hut
Dogs: Generally no, there is often poison drops in the Tararua's so check out the DOC website
Be Aware: Like with any Tararua tramp come prepared for all weather conditions (check out our Tramping 101 post)
Kids Rating (0-10)
Overall Fun Factor: 8
Legendary Factor: 9.5
Would we do it again?: 8
Exhaustion Factor: 10
All Trails Map from the walk in (the phone ran out of battery for the return trip)
Getting There: Holdsworth Carpark