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Howletts Hut via Daphne Hut, Ruahine Forest Park

A winter wonderland at Howletts Hut. Photo: Shaun Barnett/Black Robin Photography
Total Ascent
Daphne Hut (12 bunks, $5), Howletts Hut (8 bunks, $5)
From Kashmir Road Road, west of Makaretu
GPX File
Howletts Hut via Daphne Hut (gpx, yo 57 KB)
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Howletts Hut is named after one of New Zealand’s pioneering trampers; William Howlett, who set up a ‘sort of alpine club’ in the 1890s, and spent innumerable summers botanising the local ranges. The club didn’t last long – Howlett was ahead of his time – but his name and influence did. So, when the Ruahine Tramping Club built a hut on Daphne Ridge in 1940, it was natural to name it after the man who had shown such interest in the Ruahine Range. When the Heretaunga Tramping Club took over the hut in the late 1970s, they undertook a major rebuild, and have steadily improved it ever since.

On the map, Howletts Hut looks not too far from the road end; but getting there can be quite arduous. The direct approach up the Tukituki River is slow bouldery travel. Far better, in winter, is to head in on a track from Kashmir Road via Daphne Hut. That leaves just a short spell in the river, and then the steep grunt up Daphne Spur. Even better still: climb to the tops near Longview Hut, summit Otumore, 1256m, then traverse north to Daphne Ridge and the hut.

Howletts lies right on the bush-edge; an attractive combination of orange and blue, with a steep gabled ridge and an effective potbelly stove inside. Grand views expand eastwards to Hawke’s Bay, but the best view is further along the ridge, where the Sawtooth Ridge appears in sharp profile. It’s a serrated bit of real estate in summer, but winter snow and ice lend it a grandeur as impressive as parts of the Southern Alps.