The stars were out in full display last night. Near New Moon just setting, Venus a close companion.
Well, you know that means that with all the snow around the hut and almost 1200 m altitude it was going to be a cool night. I was sharing the hut, it was Saturday night, with two other bodies, R and A. We must have been radiating some warmth and must have increased the temperature a little but in the morning it was -2° C when I checked from my sleeping bag.
I listened to the mountain weather forecast just after the news at 5 am, which offered a forecast as good as you could hope for, four fine days with little wind.
Maybe the fine weather might even last a little longer.
No hurry in the morning, I chatted to R and A for a while, drinking coffee, plenty of that. The water left overnight inside the hut wasn’t completely frozen, just somewhat slushy to start.
While I packed up the other two reconnoitred some way up the hill, to a good advantage point and recommended crampons on their return. I was grateful for bringing them when I finally launched, the others had negotiated icy slopes in the shadows that I would have been way more cautious with.
After a while of climbing and getting into the sunshine the extra traction provided by the crampons proved unnecessary, yesterday’s afternoon sun had melted some snow, no major crust this morning.
You don’t climb over the precise top of the flat Mt Starveall, 1511 m, but you do get an excellent view to the west from Mount Owen around to Separation Point in Abel Tasman National Park, over to the Waimea Plains and Nelson airport, and of course looking straight down the Pelorus River with the Mt Fell and Richmond backdrop.
Then it was a steep drop into the forest, the snow crusty enough for me to don the crampons for the remainder of the day. Gorgeous mountain beech forest, a long way down, some undulations, then up with a sidle around Slaty Peak to the hut.
No one had been to the hut for three weeks, since a solo SOBO on Te Araroa had passed through, mighty late in the season.
I’ve now cranked up the firebox and some warmth is radiating around, melting snow for water again, that otherwise takes a lot of fuel, and fortunately there’s a big camp oven that I will have steaming.
With the patch of ice encountered today I’ve been considering avoiding Mt Rintoul with the nasty 250 m drop from Little Rintoul. I guess it’s easier to go up, coming down is not quite such a fine thought. The alternative is to drop down from Old Man Hut into the Goulter River valley and do the big climb up Bushy Top and over to get back on Te Araroa, the official Alpine Route, then drop down to Mid Wairoa Hut.
That’s a lot more energetic, another thousand metre climb and having to cross the Goulter a couple of times. I’ll take my boots off I think.
Yeah, the firebox is pumping out some heat, although not exactly cozy at 4° C in the rest of the hut, but it feels good huddling close.