The Holdsworth Road end is a little over 90-minutes from Wellington, with ample parking and a large campground. It’s possible to drive in after work on a Friday and walk the well-marked tracks to Powell Hut or Atiwhakatu Hut under torchlight if need be.
It’s a great circuit to introduce people to a diverse environment, from native bush to riverside ambling to sub-alpine tussock and snowy peaks. The sections are relatively short, so you can get a taste without too much labour. It can be done year-round, with winter the best time to beat the crowds and play in the snow.
Anyone with a reasonable level of fitness and an interest in the outdoors can tackle this circuit. Kids will love the achievement of climbing a mountain and the views above the bushline. The exposed section between Powell Hut and Jumbo Hut should not be attempted in poor conditions, but it is generally safe, with no narrow ridgelines or difficult rock scrambles.
There is little chance of getting lost, even on the tops. Because the route is so well trampled, a distinct foot pad has been worn into the landscape. There are signposts at every intersection, including on the tops. Additionally, if parties need a quick evacuation there is a route down a spur into the Atiwhakatu Valley, called East Holdsworth Track.
There’s something about the glistening beech forest that leads up to Powell and Jumbo huts that makes either the climb or descent calm and comforting. On the tops, the views across the Tararuas and over the Wairarapa are breathtaking. In winter, it becomes a wonderland of white, with icicles growing on speargrass, tarns frozen over and Mt Holdsworth suddenly looking imposing and majestic.