Grand ambitions for the day.
Well, I had ambitions, how the day unfolded was somewhat different.
Due to the road closure down in the valley rather than dropping down for 2 km of road travel then climbing back on the track over Mt Royal I decided on some ridge travel. Zip along to Mt Baldy then further to Mt Royal, finally dropping down the track to Devils Hut.
After yesterday’s cloudless, windless day, today was quite a change: dense high altitude cloud, and a blustery wind.
I sat outside the hut overlooking the wide Wairau River and wrote the day before’s blog, drinking coffee and further resting my weary muscles. Then additional coffees, and a text exchange or three.
When I looked at the time finally it was a shock: almost 10 am. So a quick packup, not much to stow when you are away for such a short time, clean out the hut, then I was away in record time.
There must be a few people who walk the ridge as a track was clear on the ground. No markers, but they weren’t really necessary. I guess the local goats use the same path. The forest on the ridge is fairly open: lots of mature trees and little undergrowth.
Being a long ridge there was plenty of up and down, almost 550 m climbing by the time I was at the top of Mt Baldy, 1315 m. It was lunchtime and I wasn’t even ¼ of the way to Mt Royal where an official track down to Devils Hut crossed the ridge.
I sat some way over the summit, sheltered, right above the Wairau Valley, it’s cliffy on the south side of the ridge, with that view of the Orongorongas in the North Island, Cook Strait, Lake Grasmere where they extract salt from seawater ponds, Blenheim clearly visible, the Inland Kaikoura’s, all the way up the Wairau to Mt Patriarch and closer Mt Richmond, Fishtail. Far enough in the distance was a bald Mt Royal, along a snaking ridge, plenty more ups and downs, most near Mt Royal. It would be a long afternoon.
Okay, the trail was fairly well demarcated, no issue of track finding, but . . .
Yes, the but.
The reality was that at my pace it would take another five or six hours minimum, then I’d have to drop down a ridge to the hut, more than 1100 m. That would be a knee jarring exercise.
Time for a reality check.
In my youth I would have scarcely given it a thought. Today I was more circumspect. My body wasn’t entirely adjusted to the all day marching mode, even if the load on my back was minimal.
The alternative was to drop down a big ridge to the north of Baldy and catch up with yesterday’s track at a saddle a few kilometres away. No track, but it should be similar to what I’d been doing for the previous two hours, except it was going to be almost entirely downhill.
That seemed an entirely sensible option, after all it was almost 1 pm after my hilltop contemplation.
As it turned out, it was verging on 6 pm by the time I staggered into Devils Hut. I spent my usual amount of time listening for birds, there weren’t a lot, just bellbirds, warblers, and some sort of raptor. Circling high above the forest.
The vegetation on this ridge was similarly scarce, except for the mature trees: wild goats and deer had neatly excised any low-level growth.
And there was a family of goats on the Devils Hut clearing that were all startled by my arrival, one barked and they all took off for the shrubbery. Actually, goats are way more curious than deer, they did stand there looking at me for a while before their exit.
Am I worried by my lack of enthusiasm for a dawn start and tramping vigorously for the full daylight hours?
A little defensive, perhaps, but my body is no longer as enthusiastic as my brain.
I enjoyed today more than the hard work of yesterday. I like to spend time just sitting and taking in my surroundings, not simply racing through the day.
I’m one happy chappy.