My recollection from my previous trip up here, long ago, was that today would be a long day.

You could tell from the amount of climbing required, ie, from around 125 m elevation at Middy Hut to the peak of Mt Fell, 1602m, with a few ups and down along the ridge, that was clearly going to be correct.

The daylight is extensive at this time of year, it might be sufficient light to walk in the forest after 5 30, not that I was doing that, but I had removed myself from my cozy sleeping bag by that stage, leaving the hut just before 7am.

The first section of the trail is the climb up to around 900 m through the forest, a relentless, often steep, climb in amongst huge red beech trees, occasionally miro or rimu. That probably gets half of the day’s climbing over by morning tea. Luckily there’s not much in the way of windfall to slow me down.

Goats, yes, there were goats, I see five, then a few more but eventually realise I’m chasing the same black billy and barking nanny with its tiny kid along the ridge. Eventually getting too close for the comfort they charge off down the hill, the nanny still barking its warning call.

Later I see there has been two goat shooters up here recently, with the tally of 54, so that explains why no more were seen.

My main memory from the previous trip was of the area around The Chain, this turns out to be not on Mount Fell but on the unnamed hill to the north, there’s some scrambling up steep bits while still in the forest, not helped by the rain last night coming down as snow up here, it’s been about 3 inches, 75 mm, but much has melted where it’s been in the sun today, where it hasn’t gives a slippery surface to climb, luckily I have bought my leather gloves for such an eventuality.

So, first day of summer: snow. I had the same weather pattern at Anne Hut on the St James Walkway last year.

The Chain is a comforting factor when the path sidles on rock above a major bluff, there’s no problem, the path is actually a couple of metres wide, well, as long as you don’t concern yourself with looking down. I can see some old pitons drilled into the rock, but there’s now a relatively new chain, that extends much further than the original.

Actually, when you get around the corner and into the gut, you have to climb up a narrow-ish crack for about 50 m, the memories come back to me. There’s a new chain to drag myself up, it’s plenty steep, not technical. This was where, back of the day, I had my vertiginous moments, climbing up without the reassurance of The Chain. Man, lucky. These days, with my inflexible limbs, and snow still adhering to the horizontal surfaces, it’s a good move the support has been fully extended to the top.

When you get to the end suddenly it’s snow grass, and flatter, although despite what I’ve been contemplating for today’s weather, fine, it’s starting to get clagged in. By the time I’m heading up Mount Fell the view of Mt Richmond disappears, it’s completely calm and I’m quickly immersed in dense cloud, the snow poles disappear as well, I can see the one behind me and as that fades the one in front comes into focus. Fortunately there’s my GPS backup, if you wandered off the track, and that’s easy enough to do with the snow and fog, it would be a simple to get completely bamboozled.

But I know that the track junction for the Mount Fell Hut isn’t so far away and remember we had a hard time finding our accommodation first time around, it’s below the bushline, ie, a significant drop in altitude.

I staggered in after 10 hours, although to be honest I see that almost half of that had been stationary, I did take quite a few camera breaks, and spent some time fluffing around with the goats and for lunch.

That’s the way tramping should be, most of the day outside, gazing at splendid views, and then some minor elevation of the heart rate.

Well, I overachieved today, although even the famous Chain wasn’t any big thing.

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