Crispy this morning.

2° C from the warmth of my sleeping bag. Quite a frost outside, again not a cloud to be seen. Still plenty of snow on the south-east face of the Gordon Range.

Have to say the weather for the trip has been mostly outstanding. There was snow/drizzle on my way up to Dun Saddle on Day 1 but other than my day huddled inside Top Wairoa when it drizzled until lunchtime there has been plenty of hazy blue sky. Sunny but cool.

Memorable moments that the trip: the weka in fresh snow at Rocks Hut; putting on crampons for the first time coming off Mount Starveall on the way to Slaty Peak through the steep stretch of crunchy snow in mountain beech forest with that eerie winter light; spotting B at the top of the Old Man, then crashing unexpectedly into a warm hut after sometime after dark; the view of Top Wairoa Hut and Red Hill from Bushy Top; getting on the firmer, knee deep snow on Ellis Peak after a three-hour battle; and maybe, the views of the eroded red rock in various hues yesterday.

Plenty more, overall it’s been great.

For some reason motivation was missing this morning. I realised this when I left the hut after 10 am and dropped down to Porters Creek. Then it was a quick up and over to another creek where I thought I would stop for a mid-morning snack.

When I looked at my GPS to find the time it was 11 55 am.

Ooh!! Time for lunch. I hadn’t really come very far.

Eventually I got into the make progress mode, I should have been flying with the lack of food in my pack, now filled with empty Ziploc plastic bags.

I was focused on the astounding number of wild Douglas fir saplings. They are well-established on the strange red soils and outcompeting everything, including the manuka. It will cost millions to eradicate them. My guess is that there are thousands of specimens and it won’t, can’t be done. They seem quite happy on the dryer slopes, even up above 1300 m contour.

Despite that early flustering around at Porters Creek Hut and the creeks, it turned into a “hard work as usual” kind of day.

I made it to the right branch of the Motueka River around 3 30 pm, after checking out an old fence, near where the old Maitland Hut must have stood. There’s a few sheets of galvanised steel roofing remaining, I’m unsure of when the hut was there.

I crossed the river without getting my boots wet, jumping from rock to rock. I’ve had plenty of practice but that in recent times.

Then there was quite a steep climb for a while, slowly levelling somewhat.

Eventually I saw the hut in the distance, the Raglan Range across the wide Wairau Valley, a pinkish tinge on the snow with the setting sun.

The Full Moon, almost, was rising and looked like if I was quick I could run up the hill and jump aboard.

The Red Hills Hut was of course deserted, I’ve now had eight nights on my own lonesome, or indeed seeing anyone, since B left Mid Goulter Hut to climb Mount Patriarch.


Was that more than a week ago?

I still had one dinner remaining, which was quickly prepared and scoffed.

Amazing to still have fuel after this amount of time but here’s a secret or two. I used the firebox a few times to heat up a few dinners, specially up in the melting snow required huts. And I found a gas canister with enough fuel remaining to deal with another three days’ requirements, I’ve bought the burner attachment just in case. People always seem to leave gas canisters with not much in them in the huts.

No heating supplied in Red Hills Hut. It wasn’t long before I had snuck into my sleeping bag again. Might be early but my body isn’t complaining about getting more restfully composed.

I had a sudden thought: I will surely appreciate being in my own bed tomorrow. And also the shower thing.

I dealt with the woolly beard issue at Porters in the sun yesterday afternoon.

So, yeah, I’m ready for civilisation tomorrow.

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