Despite yesterday’s clear skies and calm conditions, perfect for winter tramping, the forecast was, well, pretty scary. Rain by lunchtime, then snow down to 200 m overnight.

200 m!

That’s really low. The good news, of course, was that I should be over Blind Saddle by the time any rain had arrived, and making my way down to the Kohutara car park.

Getting up at 5 30 am certainly helped in getting away early.

Low tide with what I was carrying.

No more meals in my pack, and no need to carry water, but for some reason despite the loss of ten days of food my pack still rested heavily on my shoulders.

A clear night sky, with stars shining brightly. Long me that situation prevail, weather-wise.

As it turned out, the fair weather lasted sufficiently for me to make my way back to my car without too much concern. That early start, leaving at 7 am certainly helped.

The outside tap from the water tank was solidly frozen which also helped stymie excessive procrastination from coffee drinking. The clear sky led to a serious frost as I crunched my way to the toilet. However, boots and wet socks were kept indoors and failed to freeze, Warden Hut not dropping to the temperature of some of my recent accommodations due to double glazing, bulk insulation, and a less vigorous ventilation system.

Neither of the two stream crossings presented an issue. Seymour Stream was back to minimal levels now most of the snow was gone. My feet became damp but not sodden as I started my ascent. The joy of this direction is that you start from the 600 m or so at Warden Hut, so you are halfway up to Blind Saddle, or actually the highest point at around 1200 m.

Down by the hut, little puddles were frozen with the ice and contours showed the daily freezing and unfreezing history of the previous few days. Up above 1000 m the road itself was frozen which took some care to negotiate. By 1100 m patches of frozen snow needed crossing. Every now and again a small bundle of rocks progressed towards the stream around me, rapidly, which encouraged movement on my part.

The road starts steeply and then gets progressively easier, particularly the sidling along the steep side of the mountains. Well, at 1349 m highest point the range deserves that title. It certainly looks mountainous.

The high point seemed quickly reached, although it took about three hours.

On the shaded south slopes the frozen snow buildup on the track was at times of considerable depth, around 800 mm, and judging the humps and hollows in the still bright sunlight proved not always accurate.

Then I was out of the snow and just marching down into the green valley I could glimpse below through the cloud mist. Seemed that finally I had a pair of boots that could deal with downhill better, but maybe it was just due to having the correct size of footwear for once.

I heard a great deal of clanking as I finally reached the locked gate, as an articulated cattle truck arrived to remove a sorry lot of cows crammed in a temporary pen. The driver failed to see me as I marched past, having left my car on the other side of a small stream a few hundred metres away.

Then I just needed to get out of my wet clothes and boots, and head off to civilisation, a shower, some fresh food, and some conversation, those attributes of life that I had avoided for the previous 11 days.

Once in my car the rain really came down. Just made it.

← Day 12 | Warden Hut, once again