After three energy-intensive days, and two cold nights in well-ventilated huts, it was time for a more relaxing day.

What better than sitting in a warm and spacious hut watching a grey/green Clarence River flow past?

I did a quick inventory of my food supplies, and it came to five more nights without requiring rationing. That gave one spare day to accommodate any particularly poor weather. The weather forecast was for heavy rain later in the afternoon, but early on, prior to lunch, it was just gloomy due to the dense low cloud cover.

I lit the fire early on so the hut was warm and kept the heat during the day.

Then it started drizzling at 1 pm and slowly became heavier for three hours until it stopped. Not cold enough to snow, and in fact, a fair amount of the lower areas of snow was washed away. My radio weather forecast indicated plenty of rain in the night, so that would require a difficult choice as to what to do tomorrow. Plenty of time to cogitate this afternoon.

Life didn’t seem too bad with the warmth as I lay on my spongy mattress, even if the rain had started up again. A quick review of the last few days made me question this particular venture into the hills.

First was the ridiculously claggy clay on my boots as I made my way up the initial climb from Seymour Stream. Slippery plus. Then four hours trudging, half uphill, through calf-deep wet snow, an energy-sapping experience. Next, a long night in the old Willows Hut with its dirt floor, recently dead cat, excess ventilation, while lying on a thin layer of straw. The walk up to Alfred Hut was a visual feast with the wonderful gorges, and only two slightly sketchy manoeuvres to get around gorge obstacles. Despite the wondrous walk-in, my legs were wet to my knees, and snow was 300 mm deep around the hut that again had excess ventilation with the open fire chimney and two louvre windows. That necessitated an almost immediate retreat to my sleeping bag with all my warm clothes on. In the morning, on one of the coldest nights ever in a hut, my boots were frozen. Yesterday, the walk out was again a sublime experience, although another trudge up the hill in snow slowed my pace.

Fairly austere rations. Plenty of physical and to be honest, mental effort.

But you get into The Flow, of body and mind working together, although this time it was mostly body.

I could have been more sedentary at home, waiting for warmer months, but these 10 days are probably sufficient to get my crazy walking in snow idea out of my system for another winter.

However, there are still tracks in the South Island that don’t get much snow, so I’m keen to continue on, as I seem to be able to cope with merely cold weather. Just need the appropriate gear.

+++++horizontal rule+++++

A guide to the night’s accommodation: Palmer Hut

A great location for views. | Palmer Hut, Ka Whata Tu o Rakihouia/Clarence Conservation Park
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