Humm. This bloke is feeling the effects from all yesterday’s exercise. The bones are weary.

I might of fallen aslumber before nine, not even officially dark, but I still woke before the 5 am Radio NZ National news and mountain weather forecast.

The news, nothing much, politics and accidents. The weather, good today, not so good tomorrow, gale force winds predicted.

There wasn’t much in the way of clouds first thing, actually the total reversal of last night, a red sunrise through the trees and for once I’m in a hut that gets the first of the day’s rays. It might be 4° C inside, with the last of that snow from the night two nights ago still around the hut, but somehow it always seems warmer with those early morning light beams and the prospect of a great day.

Actually I wasn’t too sure whether the weather might develop like yesterday, a fine start, clagging in later, but the day ended up taking a more benign, summery progression.

With not much stuff aboard now it’s easy to pack up, I just munch my porridge and drank a standard two cups of coffee, noting that 600 ml of fuel is insufficient for my stove for six nights, I’ll be needing to light the fire to cook at the Saddle Hut. Somewhere there is a 1 litre bottle although I’ve become used to my 600 ml plus 1.4 litre. Put that down to saving weight, excessively.

The climb around to the base of Mt Richmond was enjoyable, it helps when you have those marvellous vistas, the cliffs to the west side of Mount Fell in full view.

I didn’t venture down to the plane crash site for some reason, perhaps not having a macabre delight in finding these things. There are still artefacts from a 1942 crash which killed five people, New Zealand’s first air disaster when a Lockheed Electra crashed into the mountain en route from Wellington to Nelson in poor weather. The pilot’s name was commemorated with Johnson Peak, Mount Fell is named after Pamela Fell, a Nelson tramping enthusiast also aboard.

You find these things out, or, in this case, read what’s written on a sign on the wall of the hut.

The climb up Mt Richmond is easier than both the unnamed peak with The Chain from yesterday and Mount Fell, not as steep, and it didn’t seem to take much time to get up.

Well, to be honest, for me it’s taken decades from when I first came up to the Mount Fell Hut, called Mt Richmond Hut back then, at the age of 16 during Easter in my last year of school. Back then the weather turned quite foul, we were unable to clamber up to the actual Mt Richmond summit and instead retreated back down on the track from Conical Hill to Roebuck Hut down on the Pelorus. That track hasn’t been maintained for 20 years now.

Today, decades later, it was windy up on the summit but on a decent day a great view is had from there, the full 360°, helps being the highest peak around and being relatively isolated. Clouds were starting to scoot in, mostly around Nelson and down towards Mt Fishtail but I’m not complaining. You don’t get any sight of Nelson over the top of Dun Mountain, Wooded Peak and Fringed Hill, it’s more looking over to Kahurangi, Abel Tasman, Farewell Spit. And there’s a lot of Marlborough, Cook Strait, Blenheim, the Wairau, Inland Kaikouras, etc, all the way round to the Red Hills.

The route down to the saddle is steep, you see the roof of the hut from way up, but I decided to take my time on the loose rock, actually most of the route is loose rock, large chunks at the top getting smaller on the descent, before you get into the silver beech forest for the last 250 m.

I followed a solitary young billy goat up the hill and over the other side, unconcerned initially, gazing impassively at me before it finally decided it was time to depart. There were another five showed me how they handle a steep rocky slope, leaping the odd 2 m cliff, landing lightly with some poise and charging on down. More goats in the clearing, three adults and two tiny kids. The shooters recently shot about 30 from this hut but obviously there are plenty more around.

I’ve been considering about my options from here, the easy way is four hours down to a car park then a long walk down the road to the Wairau Valley, only you are on the north side of the river. I’d need to cross the river to get to the main road. I’ve been thinking about walking along the ridge to Ada Flat and then going on towards Old Man Hut, the Wairau ultimately, but delaying my start up Mt Fell a day means I’ll run out of food. Or, I could turn right at Ada Flat and head back to Nelson via Slaty Hut.

Up on Mt Richmond I had contemplated just doing the most direct route, climb Grass Knob and then follow the north ridge all the way down to the Pelorus. I could see the ridge is fairly flat although there is a bifurcated towards the end and I’d need to get onto the eastern ridge down there. Then it’s about 1 km down to the hut when you hit the river. No track at all, however.

I see in the hut book someone else has attempted it, down, and two parties have come up and lived to tell the tale. Maybe six hours to Roebuck then I might think of getting back to Middy. Rocks might be pushing it.

Of these options, I’m thinking Roebuck direct might be the most appropriate, heading back to Nelson directly. I’ll decide in the morning.

That ridge is the main view from the hut windows and from here it looks flat with no bluffs, except for that gnarly Grass Knob at the top.

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