Beautiful clear morning. The rain has gone.

So, it’s cooler, 1° C in the hut, although nothing like as cold as it has been some recent mornings.

Big day to get over the pass, that’s thick snow I see up in that direction. I just hope it’s been cold enough to make it crunchy. Well, there is hope and then there is reality.

I left before nine. By 1140 m it was time for crampons, not so much for the snow initially but for a grip on the snowgrass, and it’s always better to put them on before you need them, rather than when on some icy patch.

As I neared the pass there was a choice: follow the markers straight up the gully, or stay on the higher rocky area, where the snow was thinner. I kept to the high route and smashed out the last of the climb.

Man, it was windy on the ridge, but the sun was out, I was glad to be wearing my Lawrence of Arabia peaked cap, sunglasses and sunscreen.

There was still another 250 m climb along a ridge and then scooting under Mount Ellis, 1612 m, although my highest point was below that at around 1500 m. There were a couple of hundred steep, smooth metres on the south side of Mount Ellis, a firm surface to crunch across but the remainder was soft, knee deep, a slightly crunchy top layer that wasn’t crusty enough to support my weight. I had to smash out each step.

Slow going.

Then when I thought it couldn’t get any harder I had a few hundred metres where it was thigh deep, turns out being entirely energy sapping.

It was late in the day, just on 3 pm when I finally made it to the steep descent. It had taken 3 hours to get as many kilometres from the pass, basically climbing across that on the level, well, to get up the further 250 m.

With the wind it was too cold to stop for an actual lunch. I sort of stopped briefly to throw down half a muesli bar every now and again.

It was easier to go down steeply and not far to the forest, but even there snow was piled up between the trees. Just smashed through any crust, knee deep still. By the time I was out of the forest and low enough to take my crampons off it was 4 30 pm and I knew it would be dark by the time I made it to the hut.

I was hoping that I would be able to cross the Motueka River at the bottom still with some daylight remaining.

Despite yesterday’s rain I jumped across the rocks easily enough although those with the shorter stride or less gymnastic tendencies might have had issues.

I wondered about the water supply at the hut, there’s a tank with no running water anywhere nearby. I thought it prudent to load up with water at the bottom, my billy and water bottle, and being fully dark now in the forest the 100 m vertical climb.

Yet, I was quite pooped by the time I crashed in, the hut vacant and cool. I didn’t bother too much with dinner, just the rest of lunch and it wasn’t long before my tired limbs were horizontal. I’d been walking most of the day, crashing through the snow, more than 1000 m climbing and descent, my body had had enough.

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