Back here again at Richmond Saddle. I came up and early last December when I got cabin fever after some time in Nelson.
It’s been quite the slog today, just under 30 km and after an early morning climb to get up from Lake Chalice it was a long, long downhill on a 4WD track, not so easy with those rigid boots, the full 18 km to lunch at the bottom. There was plenty of traffic, people driving up Mt Patriarch in their 4WDs, or hunting, etc.
Unfortunately no one coming back down, except the three hunters from last night, unsuccessful. They stop for a chat before racing off in a cloud without offering me a ride, and yes, if a hire car with three Chinese people can fit me in despite luggage fully filling the boot, there certainly was room in that monster truck.
Life can be character building but somehow I feel I’ve had sufficient experience of this inconsiderate type to have a sufficiently strong character already.
After lunch it was more of the 4WD track style walking, this time in the uphill direction up to the native trees edge, then onto a decently maintained track through the forest, always climbing, another 1000 m vertical elevation gain in all to the hut.
There had been three vehicles at the bottom carparks so of course there were plenty of bodies in the hut, not deserted like last time. It’s Saturday night and everyone has just climbed Mt Richmond, a 550 m climb from here.
Time for the tent I think.
Mt Fell Hut, where I’d been contemplating staying tomorrow night, ie, an easy 3 hour day, is officially “closed” for use although I find that it is indeed unlocked still. After 50 years it’s been found to have been built on unstable ground and is proposed to be moved, DOC just can’t work out where.
But the weather forecast is not so great, showers in the morning, heavy rain this afternoon. I’m contemplating changing the plan, not really conditions to be bush bashing through stunted beech trees up around 1500 m.
The sensible option is to retreat down to the Pelorus Valley, another big day, but mostly down, I’m now going to aim for the last hut on Te Araroa in the South Island, Captains Creek, get back on track. It’s cold up here, fierce winds, but despite having shipped my overtrou direct to Nelson I’ve plenty of storm clothing, second beanie, gloves, etc.
Once down in the valley I’m just about out of the forest, out into farm roads and even some highway before I start on the last 75 km, the Queen Charlotte Track.