-3º C in Slaty Hut in the morning. But the firebox was still warm so the pot of water on the top wasn’t frozen.

Not something I had anticipated, obvious now, the large quantities of extra fuel required to melt snow when the tap from the water tank was frozen. Lucky there was some firewood around. I’ve saved a couple of days’ fuel use so far.

The sign might read 4.5 hours to Old Man Hut but I knew it would be more, snow was obviously going to slow proceedings.

After the first half hour, crunching through the crust knee deep, usually, and crossing a fully frozen 50 m, quite a slope, I looked back and saw the hut in the morning sun, just down there. Man, I thought it might be just too far in the conditions but then again I might as well get up on the ridge and assess the situation from there.

A fully cloudless day, blue sky, of the pale, wintry variety. I am dressed in my Lawrence of Arabia peaked cap, sunglasses, and sunscreen, in addition to some usefully warm clothes.

Some great icicles on the way.

Once up on the ridge, around 1500 m, it became easier, the wind had blown much of the snow off and I could find the harder portions for my crampons to crunch across. Well, most of the time.

There’s a fair amount of up and down, and later, after lunch, a 200 m or so climb up Old Man, that’s the hill. It was a fantastic experience being on top of the world for most of the day, looking all around, Mt Richmond, Tapuae-o-Uenuku, 2885 m, Blenheim, part of Kahurangi, and Mt Rintoul and its little, gnarly offshoot to the east. Not much wind, warm enough when moving.

Overall, the most amazing experience, a perfect winter’s day to go with the fine vista in every direction.

At Ada Flat I looked up at Old Man and was surprised to see a figure on the ridge top. Looked as if they might have come from Lake Chalice, they moved off in the direction of Old Man Hut. I would have company for the night.

Indeed I had as I staggered in just after dark. He hadn’t seen me down below when he had been standing on the top of Old Man, and was somewhat startled.

He had the fire going and it was cozy, almost, until the fire went out.

B had been pruning grapevines down in the Wairau Valley for a couple of months and had decided to leave civilisation for a while and, much like me, do some clambering around in snow, sleeping in cold huts for a while.

He was entirely enthusiastic about the experience.

On that we were monumentally agreed.

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

A guide to the night’s accommodation: Old Man Hut

Old Man Hut, Alpine Route, Mt Richmond Forest Park
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