There is no track from Richmond Saddle to Roebuck Hut, no track at all.

I’m discounting the deer/goat trails because they more or less go anywhere. This was a Little Adventure right out of the dreams of a 16-year-old, except, umm, I no longer have that kind of youthful body.

If it took just under nine hours, and that’s coming down for the most part, it might have been because I took a lot of photos, had a leisurely lunch, and spent a goodly time weeping silently and gnashing my teeth, mostly about the vast acreage of windfalls trees to traverse, or, skirt around.

Of course I’m not complaining. I chose this itinerary.

In the end I didn’t go right up Grass Knob, the wind was blustery and instead I branched off the ridge and sidled around immediately under some cliffs. One thing you realise with this off track bush bashing, if there’s a deer trail, and there were certainly a few, you know that while it might get steep, there will always be a way through.

Once on the main ridge there were more deer trails to follow, there are no official markers, actually no markers at all, although it seems relatively easy to stay on the ridge, well, until the windfall. When that was encountered I really started slowing, taking time off for extended periods of muttering and other signs of general displeasure. For a while I was able to walk 50 m to the left of the ridge and avoid most of the big trunks, well, except where I couldn’t. The corollary here is that there are so many other smaller branches snapped off, catching in your gaiters or boots, it was certainly crunchy underfoot.

Eventually, a long while after I had anticipated, I dropped into the Pelorus River just above the junction with Richmond Stream, a very pretty river up here but of course there was a gorge to climb around, just a few hundred metres until Mates Stream came in. I was wondering about all that elevation gain I acquired, whether I could actually get back down, it’s super steep around here, precipitous drops, but I came across evidence of pig foraging that relieve the tension, eventually finding a way to drop back down to the river.

I might mention that this last two hours was mainly spent swinging from the vegetation, or hauling myself up, all the while trying to work out if I could in fact make progress. Despite wearing leather gloves I note that my wrists and lower arms look like your average teenage self mutilator, slashes in all directions, it’s been a twiggy old day.

I slowed for that last hour, just wandering slowly along the river bank, a few climbs involved with surprises at times, ie, not so easy to get down the other side.

And why not appreciate the surroundings, you know the hut isn’t so far away, the river is unbelievably clear, pristine, and at an extremely low level due to the general lack of rainfall in the last two months. The river junctions are just entirely gorgeous, the rivers of similar size, there’s a bluff separating them with sheer rock, broken up with some vegetation. There’s the sound of rushing water but the world here is not one to be described as grandeur. It’s unbelievably intimate, the vegetation hugging the steep hillsides down to the river edges, variegated colouring due to the variety of species in close congregation, greens of course the predominant colouring, except the greywacke rock, the bedrock sculpted fluidly where exposed to the river’s flow, that’s obviously grey. Today, this whole Pelorus River environment I’d describe as, and this might seem an unusual choice of word — delicate. And this is a part of the world that is just a big day’s walk from Nelson, the river up here is an absolute gem.

A stray weka may never have seen a human previously, just continuing on her way along the river bank, unconcerned by my presence.

The Roebuck Hut has been painted since I was here in March. DOC has also weeded the helicopter landing pad, removing small manuka, and cut a heap of firewood. With my low level of fuel that came in useful and I cranked up the firebox to make a tired dinner. Unfortunately there are plenty of sandflies at home and the door is closed. I see it’s reaching 28° C inside the hut, quite tropical but no doubt it will be back to 4° C in the morning.

Tell you what, it’s not going to be a late night tonight.

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