Twig Adventures

Day 64: Rain and Clouds

February 4th

Rocks Hut (km1871) – Slaty Hut (km1896)

Mileage: 15.5mi/25km

It was one of those mornings where I didn’t want to get out of bed. It was quite cold and drizzly. We all left the hut kind of late around 8:30 am. I started out in my rain gear, then popped the umbrella. I stay so much warmer when I can leave it up. One of my clips got ripped off during the ferry ride but I am still able to rig it to my pack.

We went through an open section of tussock but got nothing but “inside-of-a-ping-pong-ball” views. At the bottom of the trail, Dan had decided to walk out towards Nelson. He is missing his mate Tom, with a feeling that it isn’t right hiking without him. He also had an ugly blister on the back of his heel that was only going to get worse in the wet. Hopefully I will see the two of them back on the trail in the next section.

He left me with this gem of a quote, after I pointed out all the complaints about the hot, sunny weather in the hut books: “If you complain about the heat, you will get the shit [rain and cold]. If you complain about the shit, you will get more of the shit.” The forecast had called for today to be nice, with more rain and wind coming Monday. Maybe this ugly weather was just early and tomorrow would be nice. I’ve kind of given up worrying about the forecasts, since they seem to be all over the place. That’s NZ weather for you.

At least by the time I had descended to Hacket valley, the drizzle had stopped. Next was a stretch crossing Hacket Creek a million times. The trail basically goes up the creek bed. Since my feet were already soaked from the rain and wet vegetation, it was easy to just dive right in. No sense in trying to boulder hop…you’d be there all day. The creek was running pretty good but not flooded. I went through a few patches up to my thighs and almost took a dunk when I slipped on a rock…thank goodness for trekking poles! All the rocks were slippery, including the ones above water, given the rain.

Just as this got old, the trail began a steep 3000′ ascent in just under 3 miles. It was a tiring climb. My legs were pretty spent by the time I got to Starveall Hut. The sign at the bottom stated 4.5 hrs to the hut but I had done it in 2.5 hrs. I found the hut empty but as it was only 4 pm and it wasn’t raining, I decided to press on.

My one good view of the day.

The next hut was 3 hrs and 5 kms away. There was yet more climbing up to the top of Mt Starveall. This really hurt because I couldn’t see the end, all covered in cloud. It was just one false summit after another. Visibility dropped to about 50 meters and the wind picked up, bringing a chill to the bone. I had to put my rain jacket on for warmth while I was moving, the first time this whole journey. I began having a hard time just seeing the next marker. The trail was roughly trodden through the open tundra so it was easy to lose it. I did get off track near the top and had one of those moments when you suddenly realize that the stakes are kind of high. I had to use my GPS to get back on track.

Fortunately the trail then dropped out of the open tundra and I was in the protection of the trees once again. It was pretty easy cruising after that. I made it to the hut by 6 pm. I smelled it before I could even see it in the mist. I was pleased there was smoke coming out the chimney. I found a French couple inside, along with American section hiker Brian. I was so relieved that this 6 bunk hut wasn’t already full, as I didn’t wish to tent in this weather.

It was another great, cozy night. If there is one huge bonus to all the rain, it’s that many of these huts were out of water only a week ago. It would have sucked to carry water up these big climbs!

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