Weekend - Friday 9 September 2016 to Sunday 11 September 2016 (3 days)

We too were avoiding the Dieffenbach Cliffs, so left the Egmont road at the same place as Martin’s group, but rather than heading for the Kaiauai Shelter, we turned up Kokowai Track. Increasingly as we climbed it had more and more untracked snow, especially once we broke out from the bush into the open. Great drifts of snow rewarding the unwary footsteps with a plunge into deep snow - at one point I was in snow to my waist with a foot stuck firmly, requiring some serious digging before I could retrieve it again.

Increasingly super views, but with some very strong side winds we were most keen to get to the Holly Track junction, and then turn our backs on it heading westwards. Needless to say that junction was very elusive, dragging us much further up the mountain than we had expected. Tayla did a great job as our junior snowplough for most of the day, with me assisting in the last section of the Kokowai track - great efforts that were much appreciated by the rest of the group following in the same footsteps, and then by all the parties that came back that way the following day.

A sheltered lunch spot just after the junction, with views north up the coast, and towards Henry, Maude and the Pouakai Range, with the mountain behind us clearing of cloud and becoming picture perfect.

Still some good snow in places on the track, but on a downward slope now, so we then reached Holly Hut by 2.30 in time to have a chat with 2 day walkers, and then it was ours until 6 French people turned up as refugees from the Pouakai Hut early in the evening. Hazel and I soon left on the slushy scruffy track down to view the Bell Falls that drain the Ahukawakawa Swamp, while others in the party visited the swamp itself.

Philippa using all her ex hut warden skills embarked on a battle of wits with our French visitors to ensure they paid for the cosy warm accommodation for the night. Plenty of firewood and solar powered lights meant we were not all in bed as soon as it became dark !

The next morning was clear and still, and so with no rush to leave, we had time to enjoy the sunshine, with some of us leaving a bit earlier than the others to slide our way carefully down icy boardwalks to the Ahukawakawa Swamp viewing platform. It was then a steady climb following yesterday’s footsteps up to an early lunch stop at the Kokowai junction. We could see climbers on the mountain - possibly some of Jim’s group - what a perfect day for them.

Simon passed my test as he came through later and picked up the pair of light gloves I left behind near the junction. Needless to say, the track downwards was now so much faster than the previous day, so by the time we reached the road again most of the party managed a lift up to the visitor centre with Tayla’s fiancé, so a café visit and a welcoming party for Jim’s group when they returned as well.

We were Philippa Geary (leader), Lynda Going, Tayla Going, Julia Huang, Hazel Walton and Tony Walton (scribe)