Wow, an enjoyable evening, we talked way past my usual bedtime, like until around 9 pm. Then some more in the morning.

Keen trampers, around my age, but just like me, not so enthusiastic on anything excessively gnarly. Later we found we had a substantial number of mutual friends. That’s a New Zealand thing.

They were off for a day walk up the Waihopai Saddle, 1758 m, quite a climb.

I was heading down the Gordon Stream to the Bottom Gordon Hut, and rather than walking the 38 km to the highway, then walked up the Leatham River to the Top Leatham Hut.

The two tracks were surprisingly good. Benched, but the Leatham River track was an old bulldozer track in fairly good grassed condition. Much easier and quicker then I had been anticipating.

And yes, there were conifers everywhere.

Later in the day, I spread out all over the Top Leatham Hut, a couple of hunters dropped in on their way out to their four-wheel-drive and Bottom Gordon Hut, carrying plenty of chamois meat in their packs, including the sad severed head on the outside. One of the hunters told me that the conifers was a old DOC initiative to stabilise the erosion. Well, we can confirm it has succeeded. Way beyond expectation. Now it’s a major issue.

Or is it just a significant carbon bank? It’s clearly worked too well.

At one point in the afternoon I sat down for a rest and just thought I would pull out a couple of seedlings. I found from my seated position I could easily reach ten, that in about 1 m². There must be a million seedlings up the valley, some almost mature trees.

The hunters departed and I was back on my own for the night. Might as well have an early night so I am ready for the 500 m climb tomorrow, a bit like Robinson Pass, but I know there’s a monster scree slope on the other side. That will be the last big climb of the section. Then there will be just days of tramping down flat valleys. That will be useful to burn off some more of my conditioning.

The weather has cleared up, blue sky this afternoon, although it still blowing.

I’ll try to get over Severn Pass by lunchtime to avoid the worst of the wind.

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