Warmer this morning, a big 0° C, but the weather forecast is not promising. Rain today as a cold front sweeps through. That will mean fresh snow for tomorrow’s climb to the pass on the way to Hunters Hut.

I left at 9 am and spent most of today getting to the next hut. There’s eight river crossings, only the first requiring the removal of boots. I’m getting good at dancing across on the rocks, although it helps to have a decent grip from the general rough surface of the rocks.

The Wairoa is a remarkable valley, tight and steep sided. The walking is much more adventurous than I recalled, well, actually all the Te Araroa feet have made some of the ups and downs very much more difficult. There’s plenty of sidling with big drops, 20 m, for lengthy sections. Some tricky spots where many might pass packs up if travelling in a group. It’s no Abel Tasman, or even Travers-Sabine.

Some sections need something to hang onto, but then, you get through and it doesn’t seem so bad. I’m lucky having a long reach and decent stride, plus plenty of experience dealing with these conditions.

It’s more serious for those on Te Araroa who start on the manicured Queen Charlotte Track and end up here a few days later. The two sections, Little Mt Rintoul, which I avoided, and today in the Wairoa River seem the most challenging for the whole of Te Araroa South Island. Probably more difficult than Waiau Pass.

Anyway, I arrived while still light, three weeks after the last hut occupants. Might be a while before others come through.

It started to drizzle not long after I arrived but with the temperature dropping I think that by tomorrow morning there will be more snow around. The hut is at 836 m, there is a climb to a pass at 1374 m to get over to Hunters Hut and then you follow a ridge and sidle around the 1615 m Mt Ellis. Those crampons will be used again.

6 30 pm. I finished dinner and tucked up in the warmest spot, my sleeping bag.

There’s plenty of ventilation with the open fireplace chimney. No point in lighting a fire, firewood is hard to procure in this area and there’s a few notes that mention that because the fire smokes profusely you are required to leave the door open, which kind of defeats the whole purpose of heating.

Highlight: traipsing through an interesting botanical area around the 600 m mark. Mature rimu and miro, along with scatterings of totara in amongst the predominant red beech, huge leaves here, some silver beech and higher up mountain beech. There were a series of small-leaved Coprosmas and Pittosporums, maybe I should learn to identify a few of the more common specific species. I thought I saw a small matai, I couldn’t see a parent, but later I realised this was a tiny conifer from the nearby exotic pine forest areas.

Some people have told me they find walking through the typical New Zealand forest boring. Knowing a few plant species, I have generally found it endlessly interesting, always something to think about.

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

A guide to the night’s accommodation: Top Wairoa Hut

Top Wairoa Hut, Alpine Route, Mt Richmond Forest Park
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