The best-looking morning for a while, with not a cloud in the sky first thing. Just an orange glow down the valley to the east.

Noticeable chill in the air, which for once wasn’t rushing past at a furious rate.

It turned into one of those fabulous tramping days when it all came together.

No pack for a start, just my lunch in my raincoat pockets. I also had on my mid-weight wool hoody, which didn’t come off until I made it to Veil Biv.

The river was down to about two-thirds of yesterday’s flow, making crossing the Havelock River for the first time in the day pretty easy. Plenty of jumble of rock to hop over. This was the catchment for the Rangitata that caused major problems with a massive flood of Ashburton in 2021.

I made it to St Winifreds Hut, built in 1949 by the Canterbury Mountaineer Club after they disassembled an older hut further down the valley that was in danger of being washed away.

I crossed back over the Havelock River immediately in front of the hut, and, halfway across, came to the conclusion that this was a particularly bad decision. I went more than halfway, but it had a metre or two where the flow was swift, footing uncertain due to the bouldery bottom, and I retreated to the shelter of a rock with a decent dry section. I tried to continue going back, but that didn’t look great either.


Sometimes it’s good just to act, and I saw some protecting rocks upstream and headed that way and made it through. Best not to contemplate that crossing.

I ran up the boulders to the river terrace with the hut.

I was more circumspect when crossing the much smaller St Winifreds Stream, but after one attempt found a few braids. That was better.

I was the first to Erics Hut since Christmas Day, and it was 9 February, more than six weeks before.

I discovered the strange names St Winifred and Eric were a joke about two compulsory books of the time that were generally hated by schoolchildren.

From Erics Hut, it was straightforward walking, and about an hour up to the excellent Veil Biv. This was built by the Forbes Biv carpenter also in 1963. It had been removed from its original location and transferred to the other side of the river because of erosion in 2017, sited on a fine new location up on a moraine, and fully renovated.

There is no woodburner as there is no timber around, so it would be frigid in winter.

It was after 2 pm when I left to race back down the valley. Of course, walking down the valley was a lot easier, and I could also plot out a less lumpy trajectory.

No issues with the two river crossings as it was further down from the morning. Three hours to return.

Again an empty hut.

I hadn’t shared accommodation with anyone on the trip, yet, and for the entire summer, it was only Tailings Hut in Oteake Conservation Park, where I had shared, although in different bedrooms.

As I returned to the hut, it started clouding over and looking grim—even some raindrops.

But I only add one decent river to cross all the way down on my way back to the car, the Forbes River.

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