Company in the hut last night, an Oz mountain climber, Steve, and later, plodding in, an older foursome from Blenheim after an early start, a boat trip, then wandering up the valley. It’s a cheery scene, quite different to my previous visit with me on my lonesome, instead some enthusiasm to light the fire, it’s cooler but what the hell, I’m still nervous about my fuel situation, I know I need it for Blue Lake with its tiny stove, and maybe if the weather holds, in the firebox bereft Caroline Creek Bivvy.

I was the last to leave, giving Steve a handsome head start, but I soon caught Pat and Mary, Phil and Anna, on the hill climb to Travers Saddle. I spent a lot of time wondering about where a 19 year old German tramper had gone missing after he left his pack on the saddle three weeks ago and has not been seen subsequently despite an extensive search with helicopters, plenty of people, dogs. I went through the permutations, up either way from the saddle to take a photo, or climb a hill, Mt Travers is the on one side looking gnarly, with a few unnamed peaks to the south, the other option was his return to the hut to get something he forgot but it all remains a sad unresolved situation for his parents and friends.

Then you throw yourself down into the East Sabine valley with a 1000 m drop in quite a hurry, at the river is a bridge at the start of the gorge, possibly not required, you could hop across, the river is 20 m below in a cleft, churning and mostly unseen.

At the West Sabine Hut Steve has waited, we’re both going on to Blue Lake Hut. The other four know that this is as far as they want to proceed for today. We’re surprisingly evenly matched, Steve sets the pace and for the first time in many year I’m actually tramping with someone else. We can even talk as we go, at least in the flatter sections, the usual conversation, places we have been and the joys of bachelorhood predominated and we don’t stop talking when we stagger into the hut.

No fire required.

Unless the weather deteriorates tonight I’ll be heading over Waiau Pass, my rationale is that it might be a big day to Caroline Creek Bivvy, but then you’re basically on the flat Waiau river for 20 odd km to Christopher Hut on the St James Walkway, an easy-ish day to Cannibal Gorge Hut and then I’ll just pop out to the Lewis Pass and hitch to Nelson.

Too easy, oh, except for tomorrow.

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