Tararua Southern Crossing
Image: Eduardo Villouta Stengl | ©
The Southern Crossing is one of the four classic tramps of the Tararua Range.
Originally it was the route from Otaki Forks to the Wairarapa Plains (and in later years, the Kaitoke Basin). It was popularised during the 1920s and 30s by the Tararua Tramping Club and other clubs in the Hutt Valley and Wairarapa.
The crossing of the alpine tops section from Table Top to Mount Alpha (1361 m) involves about 6-8 hours of travel, with superb views to the south of Wellington Harbour, the Marlborough Sounds and the Kaikoura Mountains. The highest point of the route, Mount Hector (1529 m), carries a large wooden cross erected in 1950 (and replaced in 1980) as a memorial to trampers who lost their lives in World War II.
The track down from Alpha Hut to the Kaitoke carpark leads through the saddle of Hell’s Gate, over Omega, and through the stunted silver beech along the Marchant Ridge.
A winter Southern Crossing in good snow conditions can be one of the best tramping opportunities in the park.
Field and Alpha huts, just below the bushline on the western and eastern sides of the alpine section of the crossing, have been the traditional overnight shelters. However, Kime Hut near Hut Mound is an alpine refuge in bad weather, although it is very cold in winter because of the lack of heating.
Otaki Forks is 19 km inland from Otaki township – approx. 1½ hour drive from Wellington or Palmerston North. The easiest turn-off from State Highway 1 is at Otaki Gorge Road, just south of the State Highway 1 bridge over the Otaki River. The last 5 km of the Otaki Gorge Road is unsealed, narrow and windy – please drive carefully.
The Southern Crossing is often plagued by bad weather and is especially exposed to cold southerlies, the cause of several fatalities over the years.
The route across the tops is recommended for experienced trampers only. Good navigation skills are required, as particularly in misty conditions route finding can be difficult. Always carry a map and compass and know how to use them or ensure you have at least one experienced person in your party.
Before you go into the outdoors, tell someone your plans and leave a date to raise the alarm if you haven't returned. To do this, use the New Zealand Outdoors Intentions process on the AdventureSmart website. It is endorsed by New Zealand's search and rescue agencies and provides three simple options to tell someone you trust the details about your trip.