Interpreting weather forecasts for Tararuas
Hi, a group of relatively experienced friends and I are planning to tramp up the ridge from Powell Hut to Jumbo Hut on Saturday. I have rung Wellington DoC and Wairarapa DoC and neither seem to be able to tell me what the metservice forecast means in terms of how safe it will be to walk. I understand that I need to check closer to the day, but if I can't interpret it then I will still be none the wiser. They tell me if there is severe weather forecast there will be a warning on the website, but by the time that appears we will have left Hamilton to travel and may even have already started walking. Obviously we will have all our winter woollies and windproof jackets if it gets windy cold. So the forecast words on metservice say this: Morning cloud, then fine. Southerlies, gale about the tops at times. Powell Hut (1214 metres) Wind: 6am Southwest 35 km/h 12 pm Southwest 30 km/h 6pm West 25 km/h 12am West 35 km/h Precipitation amount: 0 mm 0 mm 0 mm 0 mm Wind chill temperature: 6am -7° C 12pm 2° C 6pm 4° C 12am 5° C Kime Hut (1400 metres Wind: 6am Southwest 35 km/h 12pm Southwest 30 km/h 6pm Northwest 65 km/h NW20 km/h Precipitation amount: 0 mm 0 mm 0 mm 0 mm Wind chill temperature: 6am -7° C 12pm 2° C 6pm 1° C 12am 4° C There is also a forecast from weather.com that says wind 18km/h, max 13 min 3 for Jumbo hut, I don't trust these overseas websites, but one friend has taken that forecast as 'gospel' that it will be good weather.
Any comments on what are safe parameters welcome, as the alert levels given for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in the media recently seemed too high, like 65km/hr winds and -10 degrees windchill on a fine day, or over 50 km/hr when more than 10mm of rain, or rain or snow predicted.
Both Powel and Jumbo are only just out of the bushline. With that forecast you will be fine getting to either. Across the tops though that could be quite a grovel but there are options to chicken out at Holdsworth. Its not going to be a pleasant trip but I doubt it will be dangerous as its a well marked and used track. This could change though depending on the angle of the wind. Ive been up on Mitre which isnt far from there and the last kilometer was done on hands and knees as the wind was comeing straight up the side of the ridge and anything caught by it was going straight up. On the way back we opted for dropping off the ridge into a field of spaniards.
Hard to gauge your group's capilibilies, but given the current Metservice forecast for Powell hut on Saturday I would be happy to take my kids (16,13) along the ridgeline to Jumbo. They would wear a layer of polypro and raincoat if needed. I was up at Powell hut on a daytrip last weekend with my daughter (16) with a forecast of 80km/h winds. There was a pleasant steady breeze at the hut so we considered heading up to the trig on Holdsworth, but 5 min up the track where it meets the open ridgeline we promptly turned around due to the strength of the wind meant my daughter couldn't stand up. If you don't like the forecast then there are plenty of other tracks within the bushline such as Totara Flats/Neill Forks to the south, Atiwhakatu/Mitre Flats to the north as options at Holdsworth.
just dress for the conditions, with enough warm and windproof clothes, have waterproof pants and an emergency bivy bag. its how gusty it gets which can be half the deal breaker... no sign of rain at this stage.. this computer forecast has it around the same windspeed during the day. https://www.mountain-forecast.com/peaks/Mitre/forecasts/1571 the DOC alerts for Tongariro are probably assuming people have dressed reasonably for the conditions, a bad assumption to make when most people walking it in summer are tourists who often pay little thought to the conditions, i was with a german medical Dr who was going to leave her warm clothing behind because it was a clear calm day at the carpark, i told her she would definitely need it higher up...
Thanks for all the ideas. We will be starting at the roadend going up the Holdsworth track, so it will be a long day if tricky along the ridge. Or we could go the other way if the forecast suggested Sunday was better but prefer to have Saturday the longest day. So apart from crashing at Powell's or Waiohine hut in an emergency, does anyone know how long these alternative routes would take? (We usually walk approximately the DoC given times)? 1) Go down at Mt Holdsworth and walk down the Holdsworth/River Ridge/Atiwhakatu/Raingauge Spur Track up to Jumbo hut? 2) East Holdsworth Track and the Atiwhakatu/Rain gauge track up to Jumbo hut? Of course there's the option of Atiwhakatu hut too, but we're booked at Jumbo.
Up to Powell is easy. The track has been so upgraded, that experienced trampers can do it in 3 hours. After that the track becomes drastically different. On interpreting the forecast: add 20km/h to the forecasted wind. So if says 60km/h, it'll probably be 80km/h along the ridge, which is very unpleasant to crawl in (you won't be walking much). The wind is your most important factor here, as I'm assuming you wouldn't be walking here when it's raining heavily anyway. So a forecast up to 40km/h is fine to walk in. Personally I'll bail if it says 60km/h (so I'm assuming it will be 80km/h), that's my limit. Also note that the forecast is not updated till 8am or so, so if you look at 6am in the morning, it's the previous day forecast basically, so look carefully at the "issued" time. If the forecast for wind is first day, you could do the loop in reverse, so go to Jumbo via Raingauge spur track, then to Powell. The tracks/spurs you mentioned are a good experience, but typical Tararua. You'll know what I mean once you've done them :-) DOC times in Tararua are totally overstated, and utterly confusing. It may say 3 hours to X, then you walk 10 minutes, and then it says 4 hours to X or 2 hours to X. You probably will be walking faster. So given the experience you mentioned, you'll be totally fine. Even if it's windier, it's not that long. If they're all adults, a bit of crawling in the wind just adds to the fun.
Hi @Hammum. I reckon you'll be fine as long as you make good decisions at the time, but obviously take into account what people are saying and have warm clothes and rain gear to keep off both wind and rain if it's about. Forecasts aren't always accurate, and with the context of forecasts it's also important to take into account what you're experiencing at the time. You have lots of options for adjusting plans. Also if you're staying the night at Powell Hut, it'll probably be with at least some others planning to do the same or similar to yourself, so you might be able to get further advice about what's happening. (Don't feel compelled to trust someone if their advice still causes you to feel uncomfortable, though.) If starting the morning at Powell, I'd head up Holdsworth to start. If you're getting blown off your feet or otherwise struggling or doubtful, you can turn around back to Powell, or go down East Holdsworth. I can't imagine going down to Mid Waiohine -- that sounds as if it'd be a long way out of your plan and things would have to be seriously wrong when you could've just gone back to Powell. The stretch between Holdsworth and Jumbo (the peaks) is fairly standard Tararua tussocky ridge-line. The track will be overgrown with tussock in places, but just aim to stay on the highest point of the ridge. There's always a risk in these places of getting lost in cloud and going down the wrong spur if it's around, but it's been walked so much that seems unlikely. (Make sure you have a compass, gps, whatever you're most comfortable with using, and can comfortably use it to confirm you're going where you expect.) If you're lucky with clear enough weather, you'll see the aircraft wreck in the distance below Shingle Slip Knob. In terms of risk from weather, option (1) looks very safe. The River Ridge short-cut track down from Pig Flat to the Atiwhakatu River is typically steep and tree-rootey, unlike the tracks around it, but it'll be fine if you go carefully. If you're intending to double back towards Atiwhakatu Hut then it's probably preferable. The stretch alongside the Atiwhakatu River is a menagerie of various bridge designs that DOC's somehow found for the side-creeks. The track's very well groomed these days, and families frequently walk into Atiwhakatu Hut with small children. If you also have portable shelter, like tents, as I tend to think everyone should no matter what their plans, there's heaps of good camping along the river if you end up stuck down there and the hut's full, which it probably will be on a summer Saturday night. The main issue between Atiwhakatu Hut and Powell Hut is that Raingauge Spur is quite steep. A certain kind of fit person will bound up rapidly, but it's the sort of uphill grind that separates people. A group, or anyone at an average pace, could realistically take something like 3 hours to climb the 750-odd metres, even though it's only about 2km on the map. (Think about that gradient for a moment. :) ) For (2) I haven't been down East Holdsworth. Someone else would need to comment on what state it's in. I think it's also quite commonly walked, though, particularly by people who are looking for a shorter kind of loop back to the Holdsworth carpark. On the side assuming you *do* go to Jumbo and are looking to get down on Sunday morning and have all day to get back to Holdsworth carpark, don't rule out the second track down as an alternative to Raingauge, which goes more east of Jumbo instead of south-east. Personally I think it's a much nicer track, although fewer people follow it. I guess because it's less direct. Enjoy your weekend.
Those wind conditions arnt too bad for tramping powell to Jumbo.A typical day really. . but, most mountain forecasts (metservice and the others) seem to frequently underestimate the maximum wind (gusts) The Greater wellington regional council website that records the GW weather stations almost always show a much higher wind gusts than are forecast.. often, a 50km forecast on metservice mountain forcast for Powell is gusting up to 80-100 kms. I just walked out of Carkeek-Arete forks today, Fridays wind was up to 140kms at the GW Tauherenikau at Cone weather station. To me, it felt a lot stronger (Tarn Ridge)I couldnt keep on the ridge, fortunately was only crossing it, from waiohine to upper waingawa. Today, is gusting up to 80kms, which is more similar to todays metservice data. The GW site is at http://graphs.gw.govt.nz/?siteName=Tauherenikau&fbclid=IwAR0MpKnJcbGhqipF9ofH_BVJcT5BrRt-c4mv0NSYtmteaYJe7O0Mj5PV8Jk The only GW Tararua wind recording is at Cone (Tauherenikau at Cone) its well worth keeping an eye on this site, if travelling to Tararua tops. PS, the Cone site doesn't seem accurately to reflect the wind on the tops at 1400 meters. I'm inclined to think its a bit windier than Cone data shows
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