If I want to get to Nelson on Friday, ie, tomorrow then I was going to have a huge day walking today.

Browning Hut would be the halfway mark to Rocks Hut. From Rocks it’s an easy enough walk out.

An early start was essential, as was keeping up the pace all day. Then again, I’d been training for this for two weeks. Might have some tramping in the dark if I didn’t make haste.

The waking early part wasn’t too hard. That comes naturally.

The tap on the water tank was frozen solid and I had to crack the ice in the top of the tank. I returned to my cosy sleeping bag to eat my porridge.

Yes, the stars were out and shining brightly, and it was mighty cold.

After that early start, and my minimal pack up required I was away by 7 am. Light enough in the forest.

What can I say about the day?

It was long. A long, long day.

Much of the time was just pounding away knowing that if I stopped for too long, I’d be walking in the dark. And with the batteries on my headlight running down that wouldn’t be a pleasant experience.

There is a 1000 m drop down to the Hacket Stream, and a few crossings to check how my balance was progressing.

The level was surprisingly low and I didn’t fall in, and kept my boots more or less dry.

Two guys, not associated with each other were standing around outside Hacket Hut.

One, a hunter was waiting for his more enthusiastic mate. He had killed a pig last night. Now his mate was off to get a deer in the nearby forest with his crossbow. That’s not news that trampers generally want to hear.

He reminisced about shooting a decent size pig right in front of the hut back in the good old days, probably the 1980s.

The other guy was drinking whiskey from a stainless steel mug, despite being before 10 am. He spoke about shooting wild cattle up Serpentine Creek, a tributary of the Hacket, and another story about coming home one day and finding one of his bulls standing in the living room of his farmhouse.

I’m sure he had plenty of random stories, but I thought I shouldn’t waste too much time, and should march on.

At Browning Hut a Belarusian guy was having a stay after injuring his knee coming from Roebuck Hut. We had a great chat as I ate my lunch. He was off to Stewart Island/Rakiura that got me enthusiastic. Then he told me about another hunter who had come through early on.

I left about 12 30 pm, up to Totara Saddle. Rocks Hut was still five hours away according to DOC.

There are a few more windfall to clamber around, on the track has become root bound with so many more feet now that it has become part of Te Araroa. Not always so easy going.

Then about the high point I ran into a Japanese/New Zealander who was reasonably well-equipped and we talked about current icy conditions and a possible escape route down from Old Man Hut down to the Goulter.

I was catching up on socialisation in a hurry.

Arrived at Rocks Hut after more than nine hours on the move, around 30 km trudged out. It was 5 57 pm. Just on pitch blackness in the forest.

No one else home, except for a very noisy possum. I’m so tired I don’t think that’s going to worry me.

Overcast and a cold wind all day but the heavy rain did not eventuate.

+++++horizontal rule+++++

A guide to the night’s accommodation: Rocks Hut

Rocks Hut, Mt Richmond Forest Park interior
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