Was this a rest day?

At least I didn’t end up having to carry my pack. I joined a throng heading up to Cascade Saddle. It was a real United Nations: five Aussies, five from the Czech Republic, one Pole, one Canadian, and me going up. Four Koreans, one Dutch and one American coming down after climbing over from Aspiring Hut. That’s a 1000 m climb in a complete hurry.

Actually I was the last to leave, somewhat after 9 am.

Here’s the thing. This is one of the best days out you can do.

Initially there is a view of the Herre Glacier, followed shortly later by the ice cliffs of the Marshall Glacier, then somewhat further up the major Dart Glacier comes into view, ie, you can see the ice rather than the gravel covering the bottom section.

After a climb up to Cascade Saddle, Mount Aspiring, 3033 m, comes into view, but the major surprise is the massive cleft down towards the Matukituki valley, and the shear drop at Heads Leap, a 200 m waterfall.

I hung out there for an hour taking it all in, and eventually retreated to have more of the Dart Glacier.

Yeah, it’s a knockout day. I’m thankful I took up on a chance remark that was worth going up.

It was cloudy to start but that burned off, and it turned into a cloudless afternoon. Just spectacular.

Do I sound exhausted? I’ve been on the go every day since leaving Big Bay Hut, and I see from my pedometer app that I’ve averaged 20,000 steps a day since then. 11 days walking on the trot. In fact now 46 days tramping so far this summer, some of that early on with lots of ups and downs.

Two days to go, at least on this trip.

This is as fit as I can get, I guess, and it feels great. No issues with hill climbs and general scrambling.

At each summer’s conclusion I keep thinking maybe this is the last of these two week plus expeditions, and then I come up with some new plan.

I’m thinking next summer I might bring my car south, and have a few quicker in and out style trips. Less food and fuel to carry. Like a normal person would!!

Anyway, this campsite is the best of the summer, even compared with the very open one in the upper Clarence River Valley. In a lovely grove of mountain beech right at the bushline, a carpet of leaves, flat, not lumpy, the roar of Snowy Creek nearby, and tent pegs able to be slid in with my thumb for once. The view of a small glacier. Well removed from the busy enough hut, must be 15 people down there, none New Zealanders other than the besieged hut warden.

Solitude makes me introspective. Like thinking this time last week I was leaving Te Anau.

When tramping, a week can seem an extraordinarily long time, each day filled with new sights, experiences and people.

Yeah, I’m totally relaxed. Not a care in the world.

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