I sensed it was cold in the morning and glanced at my thermometer, argh, -5° C. No wonder I didn’t want to get up.
But once I was moving it wasn’t too bad, that was until all packed up, B long gone, I tried to put my boots on but found they were frozen solid. The laces were like wire.
I had to sit for 20 minutes with my feet slowly heating the boots up. My feet were shoved inside but my laces couldn’t pull the parts together. I had hardly enough length in the laces to tie them once rather than the double knot, with excess, I could usually get.
I crunched around the hut a bit, down to the little frozen tarn where there was an amazing frost heave. Walking nearby I dropped through the elevated 2 cm thick ice onto the ground below.
Man, time to go.
I used my crampons for the first 400 m drop down the stream, it was much more crunchy than yesterday, despite the lower altitude, due to shading by the surrounding hills.
It had been a great walk for the most part coming down the west branch of the Goulter River, the track sidling high above the river, mostly level through open beech forest, quite a few totara also to be found. The crossing halfway down was easy enough without taking off my boots but then I have a long stride. On the other side ice on the rocks needed to be avoided.
The crossing of the east branch was wide and pebbly and less than ankle deep so I took the plunge and ran through, after leaping off some rocks on the deeper side. Fortunately there was no water inside my boots.
B was going to give Mt Rintoul a shot, I cautioned him about the 250 m drop on the other side of Little Mt Rintoul, and a ledge with some exposure, so it was a relief when he caught me up just before the hut. He did not have crampons and it had been indeed icy. He had made it up to Little Mt Rintoul, 1643 m, enjoyed the view, then sensibly came back down.
We arrived at the delightful hut half an hour before dark. I had stayed here not so long ago as part of my Te Araroa deviation over Mt Richmond. The clearing was a third covered in serious frost crystals where the sun hadn’t penetrated, but the hut was still in sunlight.
A second night with great company, and plenty of fuel for the fire.