Tramping Traverse | Tararua Ranges | Back Country Cuisine

Tramping Traverse | Tararua Ranges

22 March 2024




Back Country Cuisine Meals


Isla Ashby and Louise Hammersley

Traversing the Tararuas - Not Just a Walk in the Park!


After being taunted by the Tararua Ranges for far too long we decided to embark on a two-week tramping traverse of its main ridgelines. In less than a month, we finished our degrees, quit our jobs, Louise moved flats, and we set off into the mountains.

Before we could leave we undertook extensive preparation for our trip. Thanks to Back Country Cuisine we had been kitted out with dehydrated meals for the entirety of our trip. These ultra-light meals made our two-week tramping plan possible because they enabled us to carry the appropriate amount of gear without compromising the integrity of our meals. See our official ranking of our favourite meals below.

View of Tararuas

The Tararuas

If there is one thing that we have learnt from tramping in the Tararuas it is that there is only so much preparation you can do because ultimately you're at the mercy of these mountains' extreme weather conditions. A Forest Park where you can expect 200 days of rain and 160 days of gale-force wind annually, as well as large dumps of snow year-round. Attributed to the weather conditions, the Tararua Ranges have claimed 22 lives since the 1970s.

Reinforcing that ‘flat’ in the Tararuas means not flat at all, our first few days walking from Mangahao to Te Matawai were rougher than expected. The combination of the arrival of our periods and the unfamiliar pack weight left us feeling unbalanced and low energy as we clambered over fallen logs and crossed back and forth over the Mangahao River. Nevertheless, it felt good to finally be on our adventure after months of planning.

Tararua Weather

The Weather

As the weather turned we had to rearrange our route plan to avoid walking in 60 km winds but still knock off the kilometres. We got to Dracophyllum Hut quickly, making sure to stop by the lookout for amazing views of the clag!

By the time we’d finished wandering through and admiring the goblin forests on our fourth day, the sun had made an appearance for our ascent of Mount Crawford. We waltzed along singing while Isla blew bubbles and made it to Anderson Memorial Hut.

Day five had us dragging ourselves up Mount Aokaparangi, the wind blasting us with rain in every direction. We walked in silence, raincoat hoods pulled tight, only our eyes visible. We skipped lunch, too cold to stop and spent most of the day walking up and down peaks, semi-rock climbing and just hoping not to slip or get blown off. We got to Maungahuka Hut starving and devoured our Back Country Cuisine Spaghetti Bolognaise meal that we had been thinking of for hours.

Unfortunately with the weather predicted to only get worse, it looked like our dreams of climbing the infamous ladder and getting to Kime Hut would be disrupted by intense gails, rain and clouds. After some deliberation, in one last act of defiance, we pulled on our dripping clothes (screeching) and ventured out to make a final judgement call. We made it 10 minutes onto the ridge before we were almost blasted off. The wind roared across the narrow peaks, the steep descent on either side unforgiving if either of us misstepped. Having no urge to fall to our doom we retreated, staggering back down inside the hut. We spent the rest of the day in a weird coma trying (and failing) to keep warm. Only properly warming up once we got a hot meal inside of us.

On our seventh day, the weather got even worse and we were forced to make the decision to escape via Neill Forks Hut, we reached the car park gutted at sacrificing Kime Hut and Alpha Hut. Strangely with no tears about missing the long trudge down the Marchant Ridge.

We had one rest day to wait out the worst of the storm before heading back into the Tararuas to Totara Flats Hut and then onto the Holdsworth Circuit. We were excited to retrace the walk on which we had first met as part of a Victoria University Tramping Club trip a few years prior. We unpacked the car and realised that we had left the insoles for our tramping boots at home. Awesome. What a great start. We decided to head on our merry way, just without an extra layer of padding on only the most crucial part of our body.

Sunshine in the Tararuas


This section was full of sunshine and laughter. Relishing the weather, we made our way through rimu, tōtara, mataī and fields of buttercups. The gentle scenery was tranquil in comparison to the rugged beauty of the ridgelines we had become used to. We dubbed the Holdsworth Track a “Tramping Highway,” after we went from seeing two people over a week to 40 in one day. We felt alive on the tops walking in full sunshine (we even got sunburnt!). Jumbo Hut was bursting with interesting women, and we were excited to recharge our social battery. In classic Tararua fashion, on day ten we awoke to high winds again and raced out of the Forest Park stopping only for a snack at Atiwhakatu Hut.

Navigating to McGregor Bivvy

After a few days reunited with our inner soles, we re-entered the mountains (and the clouds) navigating to McGregor Biv. Day twelve consisted of constantly checking the maps to make sure that we were going the right way. We were both anxious about the Broken Axe Pinnacles, but the biggest challenge turned out to be finding them. Just as we put our poles away in preparation for what we thought was finally going to be the scary section we realised that we’d walked over them. The mountain’s ridgeline that followed continuously lost, then gained elevation and the rock climbing and clambering intensified. The real action was beginning and we made it to Tarn Ridge Hut feeling pretty grateful to be alive.

Day thirteen had us arriving at Arete Biv soaked (again) and genuinely worried about getting too close to hypothermia. We were numb, couldn’t stop shaking and our arms had a dull ache which stung with movement. Squashed into the Biv trying not to drip all over our gear we downed two hot chocolates and a cup of 2 Minute Noodles then called Isla’s parents to double-check our decision-making. We managed to wrap up, get warm enough and push on to Dundas Hut before the weather packed in even more.

We walked mostly in silence (which anyone who knows us will confirm is unusual) occasionally calling out, “Are you okay?” when the other person slipped over.

The second set of pinnacles made up for the first. Thankfully, in torrential rain, the deadly fall on either side of the razor-thin ridgelines was mostly obscured by clouds. One terrifying moment required scaling an eroding near-vertical cliff face with pretty much nothing to hold onto.

The clouds rewarded us by parting for a few minutes fully revealing the mountains we had been climbing over for the first time. We had not realised they were so gigantic! The view made us stop in our tracks. Even if we only saw them for a few seconds this was the feeling of “being on top of the world,” that we’d been searching for. Reaching Dundas we were starving and devoured a Back Country Cuisine Moroccan Lamb meal. Feeling refuelled we headed off to bed for our final night in the bush!

The Final Push

Our final morning waking in Dundas Hut had us ready to get out of these mountains once and for all. We were sick of putting on wet clothes every morning and could no longer distinguish the difference between walking up or down as it all felt the same (painful). We swore never to go tramping again, not even a day walk. But as we walked closer towards home we started feeling both proud of our accomplishments and grateful for getting the opportunity to do what we had done. We had learnt a lot about ourselves and what we could achieve together.

Despite our vow, we went tramping again a few weeks later. And the week after that too, with plans for more adventures in the following months. Every single time we have tramped since this trip, it has rained on us. But we keep planning tramps and coercing friends to join us. Because there is something about challenging ourselves in the outdoors, coupled with good company that makes us feel absolutely on top of the world.

Lousie and Isla's favourite Back Country Cuisine

Louise and Isla’s Top 3 Back Country Cuisine Meals

  1. In first place is the one and only Spaghetti Bolognaise dish. This meal was special because it transported us back to our parents' home cooking.
  2. Moroccan Lamb is in second place due to its unique flavour combination. We loved the savoury meat and veg combined with the sweet apple and raisin accents.
  3. The third place is tied with Roast Chicken and Roast Lamb. There is nothing more hearty than a roast meal after a long day of hiking. We loved how much these meals filled us up and the addition of creamy mashed potatoes.

To watch our full adventure don’t forget to check out our video linked above and follow us on Facebook and Instagram @Traversing_the_Tararuas to learn more about our adventure!

Tararuas swing bridge

Thank you to Back Country Cuisine for supporting our endeavours and fueling us with delicious meals. This adventure would not have been possible without the immense support and generosity we received from our community. We are beyond grateful!

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