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Published: December 14th 2014
Four wonderful days in Kahurangi National Park. Six hour hike in to Stone hut on day one, wet and mushy and tiring. Established base camp in the hut for the next two nights. Had the hut to myself on night one - the only "disturbance" in the supremely idyllic spot surrounded by podocarp-carpeted ranges were the Whio (whistling blue ducks - endangered) who were being rather amorous overnight.
Day hike (5 hours) up to the biggest of Biggs's tops on day two. Stunning beautiful day with clear tops all around - the Arthur range, Mt Owen (the one that still eludes me), Mt Kendall still sporting snow on his sides, and so many other peaks and ranges stretching away as far as the eye could see (and the eye could see dozens of miles on this day). Hut to myself again on night two.
Day three was big. Set off from Stone hut by scampering across the river without getting too wet (testing the crossing the day before really paid off) and up the Mt Luna route. Three hours hot hike up Stone Creek led to the expected clearing with views up to the saddle below Mt Luna. Pause, then hike (hard) through the last stretch of podocarp. Pause again. I'm tired. I'm looking up at the saddle and picking a route - up that water-slip then contour across. It takes another 45 minutes of hard slog to get there. The views from the saddle are really quite humbling. Mt Patriach's pair of summits are in cloud but I have clear sight to my next target - Kiwi Saddle hut. Between me and it lies a long and complex ridge. A long, hot, hard hike up to an unnamed point on the Luna ridge leads to a long, hard, beautifully inspiring ridge down, up, down, up, and down again to the bushline. By the time I reach the bushline (and lots more ridge), I'm ready for a lie down. I force myself to take a break and consume the last of this tramp's sandwiches.
Somewhat strengthened, I hike down the remaining ridgeline through beautiful forest and down to the wonderfully cute Kiwi Saddle hut. Very tempted to stay as the view out the window of the hut (Mt Luna) is impressive indeed but it's only 3pm and I can easily use some of the remaining daylight hours to hike down to Kings Creek hut, doubling back on myself by 30 minutes or so but cutting tomorrow's out hike by 2 or 3 hours. So after some time communing with the birds and the flies on the saddle, I hike down and come across human beings - the first in 48 hours. I discover that the storm that was due to hit landfall tomorrow has been pushed north and is currently providing an overdue soaking for Auckland.
Also, it appears the better weather has led to a bit of an influx into this trail - the three climbers I chat with estimate 16 others on the trail today. Kings Creek hut could be busy. A couple more hours hike down and my legs are really beginning to complain now but the hut is only two thirds full so I find a bunk to crash in after forcing some food down. Felt weak towards the end of today's (9 hour) hike so thought I'd better eat whatever's left.
A bad night's sleep with a very sore, cramping, singing shoulder muscle to keep the whining legs muscles company leads to a slow start in the morning. I consume every last crumb of breakfast cereal in the morning. As I pack the food bag, it contains two things: rubbish, and a packet of mushroom soup (powder). I have to admit even I would've felt a bit more comfortable on the 3-hour hike out had I had a wee bit more than the solitary muesli bar in my pack. Not sure if I should call that great planning, but I arrived back at the car with nothing edible in my pack.
All in all, an awesome four-day hike in Kahurangi. Then a long, long drive up to Collingwood where I find the nicest of all motels and a lovely tavern. I sit in the sunshine in the garden overlooking the bay as the sun sets behind the hills. Bliss.
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