The view from Mt Rintoul Hut is mighty fine. Waimea Plains and Tasman Bay seem a long way down. The Hut is at 1260 m. The shape of the clearing looks directly towards Rabbit Island with Abel Tasman and Separation Point beyond. On a good day you might imagine Farewell Spit not far beyond.
What is not apparent was the 500 m climb to the summit of Mt Rintoul, 1756 m, in the other direction, but it looms large in my mind. More for the second, steeper, more scrambling 250 m climbing up Little Rintoul immediately behind, but at least going up that slope is easier then slippy-sliding down.
And it’s clearly windy.
I was wondering why I brought along a pair of leather gloves, and a thick beanie to wear over my thin one. Snow is apparently expected for tonight. I’ll be snug in Old Man Hut, maybe with my first fire for this trip.
50% blue sky and some wintry looking apricot colour on the horizon as the sun came up. Nothing too dramatic.
The climb up Mt Rintoul starts and continues steep for a while, initially through beech forest but later into troublesome, head-sized chunky boulders. The best approach is to remain unconcerned and just plod on.
The track levels out momentarily and then you have to do a sidle to get around some bluffs.
Once on the other side of all that it’s easy going to the top of Mt Rintoul.
Despite dire weather warnings it was surprisingly windless on the top of Mt Rintoul. Plenty to see from the top: the Waimea Plains and Tasman Bay, etc, Blenheim, and all the way to Red Hills, and near Top Wairoa Hut. I whacked on some warm clothes and then proceeded to sit around for an hour.
Time for a very early lunch and to tell everyone interested, and some not, about my whereabouts.
My understated message is probably the same: life is short, you never know what is around the corner, might as well do things while you can.
Still, not many want to hear that type of message late on a Monday morning, even if not delivered quite so explicitly.
You can sense I’m a major advocate for long, slow travel. The idea is to spend sufficient time in these special places so you feel as if you have actually experienced the location. No need to return although in this instance of climbed Mt Rintoul twice before. And come close on a winter expedition a couple of years ago.
Then again, this is my turf. This is where I’m from.
Sticking around makes me feel part of my environment, rather than someone who wants to be somewhere else in a hurry.
This is where I want to be.
Clouds start looking threatening to the west and eventually I leave. As previously discussed it’s a 350 m drop to a saddle and then an immediate 250 m gnarly climb to the top of Little Rintoul. It’s the hardest part on Te Araroa, at least in the South Island.
Once again it’s one foot in front of another. There have been several thousand pairs of boots down the face since I first came over here in March 2014, and it is substantially easier and less scary. Then again it is often more secure going up this horrible loose kinda stuff than down. It’s not one of those Canterbury scree slopes that might as well be in soft sand and you can run down. The rocks are way more chunky, but similarly loose.
From the top of Little Rintoul there is quite a view to the east. Old Man Hut is visible way down below. A knees shaking descent to a cool and deserted hut.
Rain is forecast for tonight and tomorrow, and just as I emerged from the forest into the clearing where the hut stands I noticed it has already started.
I’m content to sit in my sleeping bag, it’s warm enough when I have my fleece pants, softshell jacket, and a woollen beanie already on.
Maybe I will wake to a wintry fairyland that has been predicted in the evening weather forecast.