Ballard and Middle Hill Huts

21-22 November

With a 6 am start in the truck at Te Aute Road, we were prepared for a good long day in the hills to come. Arriving in good time at the carpark on Makahu road, we set off  for the lunch stop destination – Middle Hut. All seven of us made the stroll up with good scenery in fair conditions and the odd grey warbler shrilling in the back-ground.

Always good to finally see an orange hut to mark the beginning of a lunch break there at Middle Hut. Then in the early afternoon, it was time to make the ascent through the beautiful beech forest and towards the treeline milestone. This track was quite a grind with a relentless incline. Although a B party had not been planned for, it did take formation on this part of the track. Surprisingly, Simon endured a dizzy spell and so Anne escorted him back to our lunch time hut and eventually Lex followed suit. 

The remaining four of us duly arrived at the treeline and prepared ourselves with donning up  for the wind. Such a very different feel up there with the scree that requires more care to tread and the gusty wind to boot. But what a great site when we got to see the Central Plateau so clearly. A bit perplexing to make out familiar Hawkes Bay land marks from this unfamiliar high perspective. Colin had his GPS measuring gadget and was able to let us know how many hundreds of metres in height we were still to manage.

When this tramp had been discussed back at the Wednesday meeting, there had been a loose plan to over-night at Tira Lodge. While I had been quite confident in going as far as Ballard’s Hut, I was wondering if anyone of us would really get as far as this Tira Lodge seeing we still had quite a bit of a walk left before even arriving at the junction point for Tira Lodge. Thus, it was even without much discussion that we were in reality all happy to be heading to Ballard’s, given the distance to go and the conditions up there on the tops.

Paula was new to this scree scenario and her first impressions of it were not so favourable. I think that by the time we made it down to Ballard’s Hut, which is down a fairly steep and gnarly scree slope, we were all quite relieved to be able to call it a day and enjoy some good hearty dining. We were wearily ensconsed in our sleeping bags while there was still some light outside.

Such a great little hut for four. In the guest book, some had stayed for as long as 4 nights. It was attractive as the views not far away from the hut great and yet it was tucked away within the beech canopy.

Sunday saw us leave the hut by 7:30 am with a round trip in mind with a lunch-time visit at Makino Hut. This was a much better track to descend on as it was more of a gentle, even decline. The weather was still mostly good with some cloud cover. After some time, when back below the treeline, a bag of sweets was handed around. This turned out to be a great way to move us onto our eventual arrival at Makino Hut. A round of billy tea and lunch was had on the Makino Hut deck and after a quick conversation with some day walkers we were off.

There were some undesired discoveries found with the effects of hours of down-hill on toes in boots and the discomfort meant a little more of a slower pace for some. There was a little bit of rain on this last leg, enough for the rainwear for a few minutes only. Later on the track we met more day walkers and one of them took us by surprise as she jumped out behind a tree when we least expected it! Good on you Anne, a bit of encouragement at this point was most welcome.

Back to the truck to hear about how good the soak in the hot pools had been. Such a great outing with a few pics to prove it. When’s the next trip up there?

Anne C, Simon W, Lex S, Colin J, Paula K, Murry A, Robyn P

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