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Bannister Crossing, Tararua Forest Park

Clearing mist reveals Arete Hut. Photo: Shaun Barnett/Black Robin Photography
Total Ascent
3-4 days
Blue Range Hut (4 bunks); Arete Hut (2 bunks); Te Matawai Hut (16 bunks); South Ohau Hut (10 bunks)
From Kiriwhakapapa Campsite, at the end of Kiriwhakapapa Road and off SH2
BN33, BN34
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Bannister Crossing (gpx, yo 360 KB)
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Bannister has the reputation of being among the most arduous of all the Tararua’s many ridges.

Starting from Kiriwhakapapa Campsite, the track starts out enclosed in forest; a world of green fern fronds and beech trees. But emerging at Blue Range Hut, two hours later, there are expansive views of the Waingawa and Ruamahanga rivers.

A further three hours past the hut, including a descent to the Waingawa River and another ascent towards Waingawa, it’s possible to camp at the bush edge.

The ridge between Waingawa (1423m) and Bannister (1537m) is traversed often enough for a ground trail to have formed, following the often-narrow ridge crest. After descending to a low dip, there is a small cheval-like section, with a sharp drop-off to the west. Beyond, negotiate a couple of steep knobs, later arriving at the crux of the route – a little rock-step with a short sequence of grade 8-10 rock climbing.

Bannister summit is a wonderfully narrow section of ridge – quite airy, but not requiring any serious scrambling. After another short ascent, arrive on the summit of Bannister itself.

The route carries on over a pair of peaks known as Twins. Old Tararua maps labelled them The Dromedaries – a far more appealing name for a double-humped peak.

From the Twins, aim for Arete (1505m) and keep an eye out for a prominent cairn that marks the sidle route to the two bunk Arete Hut.

The next day, climb over Arete and on to Pukematawai to join the track leading to Te Matawai Hut. In clear weather, there’s a grand vista of Mitre, Girdlestone, the Kings, Logan and the upper Waiohine Valley.

At Te Matawai Hut, there are views of Dundas and the western tops. A descent down the steep ‘Yeates 500’ track leads to South Ohau Hut. It’s a sublime spot, South Ohau Hut, very nicely located on a ledge above the river, surrounded by forest, but overlooking the valley and westering sun.

The last day is a leisurely splash down the narrow Ohau River.