Quiet in the morning. Just the sound of Waterfall Stream tinkling in the background.

I’ve taken to making a few notes at the start of the day while I gag on my warmed up muesli. I find breakfast hard to scoff, it’s tasty enough but for some reason I’m not enthusiastic. At least I’ve got my filter coffee, two big steaming mugs.

I generally don’t pack up while I’m eating, but somehow writing a few notes is acceptable.

There is a 500 m climb to the saddle but DOC has re-marked it last summer. From the saddle the markings completely disappear, back in Molesworth.

It was a day of contrasts. Almost a frost to start, I donned my raincoat but soon was gaining warmth through exertion as I made my way up the Leatham River. Through mountain beech forest that pines haven’t yet invaded. But once out into some clearings the pines were there once again.

Approaching a river crossing I spotted a fawn munching on something in the riverbed, the wind in my favour, but it soon realised I was in the vicinity. Not before I took a couple of videos of it. That was up close. Then it bounded away.

Eventually I made it to the quite steep climb to the Severn Pass, starting in mountain beech forest on a sharp ridge, then a short section on the mountain tussock.

Good signage indicated there was a 60 m sidle across and slightly up a scree slope, and I popped across to the actual pass. Time for lunch even if it was somewhat early.

I admired the view down the Upper Leatham, where I had just emerged, but it was the mountainous surroundings that was of most interest.

Severn Hut is about 1585 m, so that meant a long scree slope drop on the other side, where I lost almost 500 m. Good fun sidling around to get the most from the incline, kind of like slow motion skiing.

At the bottom I lay by the river for an hour, needing to remove the parka due to the sheltered nature of a dead end valley, and a beaming summer sun.

From there it was an easy 8 km down to the hut. No cattle trails but the invasive weed hyraceum was everywhere and crowded out much of the grasses which made for easy walking. So I was back in a treeless valley on Molesworth Station. I was travelling parallel to where I had come up two days previously in the Saxton Valley.

In the ten years Severn hut has been built only a few hundred people have spent nights in the hut, most bed nights are from groups of hunters coming in for a few days. The number of people who have managed the East West route are negligible. I will have done most of it, except the Saxton/Severn direct leg.

Fortunately the Leatham/Molesworth route, the northern loop I’ve just done most of, is more popular. A few keen trampers have done it each year. Frankly it all deserves more traffic.

I love these hills, maybe due to my Australian travels where hills are often also bereft of trees.

Another night of solitude, but that may change as I make it down to the St James Walkway, which is now part of Te Araroa.

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