Day 85. Browning Hut – Slaty Hut. 13km. Total 1864km.
The night was pretty busy and noisy. At 8pm when we were already in our sleeping bags, 4 people arrived, at 9pm 2 more, sleeping on the floor. Luckily also a few others like to get up early so we are again up and running at 7am. The first hour is easy, along the river to the Hackett Junction and at 8.15am we are at Hackett Hut where some hikers still have their breakfast. Then it gets tough, a sign already warns us about multiple river crossings, dangerous in wet weather. Well, we have been very lucky so far with only sunshine the last few days so that’s no problem.
The trail is a bit overgrown and difficult, we have to cross the same river over and over again. I am used to it by now and can navigate more or less easily on the stones to avoid getting wet feet most of the time. For Peggy it’s all new and difficult, she slips and even falls down once into the cold water. The heavy packs make it even more difficult.
When we finally leave the river it’s not getting better. We have to climb up 900m altitude difference in mainly steep forest. Shortly before the hut we have to stop and have a lunch break to recover. Then it’s 15 more minutes until the Starveal Hut where we arrive around 12.30pm. Now we take a long break, cooking coffee, eating sweets, resting our shoulders but also filtering plenty of water.
As if we don’t carry a lot already, someone mentioned in the hut book that the water tank at the Slaty Hut is broken and doesn’t work well so it’s safer to carry water. Well, 3l more in my pack 😦 At 1.45pm we leave, uphill to the Starveal summit. Once we get out of the forest we get perfect views, Golden Bay, mountains, blue sky!
The higher we get into the plateau, the windier and colder it gets. At the summit we are almost frozen but still take some fun pictures!
But then we quickly enter into a forest. And what a forest! Another fairy tale one, different from the one in the Tararuas, much brighter with white thin trees and green moss.
It’s so beautiful plus it goes downhill! Until it’s up again and I feel like dying with all the water and food. Another break is necessary and then it’s just another half an hour to the hut at 1400m in beautiful sunshine and another great view as we are above tree line.
The Slaty Hut is already full, others already have their tents set up as well. Not easy to find a flat spot but we manage and soon enjoy a little more the sunshine, sitting outside, snacking a little to get rid of more pack weight before having dinner and then hiding in our tents when it gets cold at 7pm when the sun disappears behind the mountains. A long day awaits us tomorrow so we better get some rest anyway!
Day 86. Slaty Hut – Mount Rintoul Hut. 14km. Total 1878km.
The night was chilly, for the first time I had frost on my tent in the morning. I was still OK though, not too cold (just the one time I went for the loo and to see the beautiful sky full of stars). We decided to leave early at 6.30am as we have a long day ahead. My hands are frozen once I packed up everything but the sun is already shining and making me feel warm again quickly. It’s such a beautiful morning and the hike easy, along the ridgeline. We can see along the ridgeline all the way up to Mount Rintoul, our toughest summit today at over 1700m. But first, time to enjoy the hike, the views, the nice forest,…
There is some scrambling and some nice little rocks on our way but nothing too bad. At 10.15am we are already at the intersection to Old Man hut (but not going down a few hundred metres).
Then it’s some more easy time through the forest until we reach the tree line. As the exposed parts are so windy we take our lunch break here although it’s not even 11am. Then time to hike uphill to Little Mount Rintoul. Sweating a lot uphill we arrive at the top for some great views – and to see some of the scary bit that is still waiting for us.
The fight begins shortly after. Scree, rocks, scrambling, climbing, sliding down before repeating the same on the other side but uphill. I like the climbing bits but the scree is unnerving and taking a lot of strength. For Peggy it’s worse, she’s not yet used to hiking with the heavy backpack whereas my whole body has gotten used to it over the last months and my feet find their way on their own now!
A long time later we finally reach the summit of Mount Rintoul at 1700m for some happy moment and even some phone signal to tell everyone I am still alive.
Then downhill, more scrambling, more scree, more swearing until finally it’s into the forest and when I think I actually missed the hut it’s finally there! Only Silvano, an Italian living in New Zealand, is already there but in his tent. Cool, we have plenty of time to pick our preferred beds, spread out our stuff, do stretching before the others arrive. The view is nice from 1250m altitude, once more Golden Bay (feels like we’re not getting away from it). A Kiwi lends me a needle and thread to finally sew my leggings and Silvano who is going back to Nelson offers to take our rubbish. Everyone is as kind as always here in New Zealand. The other big hiker group of 7 is camping except for two of them. Later Pawel, the Polish TA hiker joins us, he only started at 11am!