Only a six-hour night at this time of year, and I somehow managed some sleep after battling cramps for a while.
The things you do.
I still needed to get down to the main junction, which was about 500 m away, then about a kilometre before I dropped onto the river flats for an easy stroll around toward the hut, another kilometre or on.
Or so I thought.
Doesn’t sound much, but I needed to lower my pack on the short piece of rope I carried at each waterfall, and then find my own way down.
The waterfalls continued.
It was fortunate I carry about 3 m of rope I keep in my pack all the time for such instances. I packed up my more fragile stuff carefully, surrounded by my clothes, tent, and jandals.
On the gnarly sections, I lowered my pack first, trying not to drop it, and followed packless.
That method also got me around the two super sketchy waterfalls.
One required climbing up some rock that was fragile in places, sidling around the bit, and then dropping back to the stream. My heart rate increased dramatically.
The big waterfall, actually in two drops, the first about 4 m and the second about 16 m, looked frightening.
Like standing on the top of Victoria Falls in Africa. A steep bluff hemming me in on one side and a bluff covered in wild roses on the other, but at least it was heading downwards.
Not what I wanted to see. But, I avoided much of the rose while managing to lower my pack vertically to a seemingly irretrievable spot. I scouted around on the steep bank under an overhanging rock and waded into the pool below, the shallow end, and managed to encourage my pack down, all without knocking myself into the deep end. Then I climbed on the grass above a near vertical slip and edged my way down a scree slope, avoiding a big wild rosebush across proceedings.
Actually, this all turned out to be one of the easier negotiations, with most of the action happening in my head, not like the entanglement I found myself in some bush lawyer as it was getting dark last night, then hence making me think I should take a break.
Vegetation helped if it was robust and not prickly, but it could also obscure where I was proceeding and determining whether there might be a 5 m drop at the bottom.
In the end, I arrived at Warden Hut scratched up with a bung knee at the same time as I would have if I’d gone back down the gorge and around the circuitous four-wheel drive road. Not much fun to repeat my antics, although once again, I swore I would stick to the marked DOC trails from now on.
The hat was vacant. In fact few people were in the valley.
Glad I did it?
Do it again? You have to be joking!
Despite travelling for hours under the continual threat of house-sized boulders, it all proved a great Little Adventure. It probably would only appeal to a particular type of maniac.
Quite rapidly, the sky clouded over, and for a time a few raindrops fell. Lucky I was at the hut.
The previous ten days weather had been about as good as I could ask, for summertime tramping.
But after last night’s long hours, more than uncomfortable, it was time to get horizontal and conk out.
And it wasn’t even dark.