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January 2020 Issue

Powell Hut, Tararua Forest Park

What a stunning spot to introduce first-timers and the kids to a night in a tramping hut. And what a hut!

There’s been a Powell Hut here for 80 years now, perched on this vantage spot, just above the bushline on the eastern edge of the Tararua Ranges. When hardy Hutt Valley Tramping Club volunteers lugged materials through the bush to build the original hut, never in a million years would they have envisioned the mod cons found at Powell Hut number five, which opened last July.

There’s a massive deck, partially covered, built for the views across bush-lined ridges to the Wairarapa plains. Inside are four separate bunkrooms, a roomy social area and kitchen, gas cookers, wood burner, solar lighting, and ventilation and fire alarm systems (two of the previous Powell Huts have burned down).

Some effort is required to reach the hut; first a gently-graded climb through beech forest then a 45-minute grunt up wooden steps built for giants, which emerges onto the subalpine tops just before the hut.

Named for pioneering Tararua tramper Ian Powell, the hut has long been popular for its quick access onto the open tops of Mt Holdsworth (1470m).

The summit is one hour’s climb beyond the hut. In summer, expect a blaze of flowering herb gardens, in winter, go prepared for a snow or ice ascent. The hut also sits on the classic Mt Holdsworth-Jumbo Circuit, a popular multi-day or staunch one day trip up to and across the tops.

Powell is described as a ‘front country’ hut, but the weather on these exposed tops can be horrendous – in fact, the new hut was built because engineers judged its predecessor to be unsafe in the high winds (up to 180km/h) and heavy snows that can occur here.