The sky was clear and the last of the stars were disappearing when I woke. It was so cold I was peeing ice cubes (slight exaggeration). Wearing every layer of clothing I struggled to warm up. Even the gourmet instant coffee and warm oats weren’t enough. I struggled.
The sun was unable to warm me due to an inconsiderate mountain range. I would have to wait. With all my layers on I started the 750m climb. My pace allowed me to build up just enough body heat to stop from freezing. It wasn’t till I nearest the top that the shadows disappeared. The warmth flowed straight through me in a euphoric wave of pleasure. From my toes to my fingers I warmed.
At the top of the pass I was hit by a gentle but brutally cold wind. My planned rest break had to be cut short. A quick photo, mouthful of chocolate and I was off. The first 5 minutes of the descent was in the shadow. It reminded me of the hot summer days when I would enter one of those walk in beer fridges at a bottle shop. I’d linger much longer than needed just to escape the extreme heat. All I wanted to do now was escape the extreme cold.
It was a bit over an hour before I descended to the bottom of the warm valley for a rest stop at Top Timaru Hut. I was rather annoyed to find quite a lot of rubbish in the hut. 3 water bottles, one freshly opened can of tuna, 2 plastic food wrappers and several other discarded items of hiker rubbish. Very sad that hikers can’t pack out their rubbish.
10am photo below
It was late morning when I set off on the notoriously slow and rough section of trail. It followed the sediment filled river for 12km downstream. Numerous crossings and numerous climbs and descents around sheer cliffs on the river bank. Time stood still for this section of trail. I passed several northbound hikers and enquired about any other hikers heading southbound. They were all a day ahead of me. Looks like I’ll be having some alone time.
I was unable to fill my water bottle from the main river due to the sediment. It reminded me of the glacial streams running off Mt Denali in Alaska. I’ve hiked through that National Park and cycled there. I even remember the time I sheltered from a snow storm in the bear proof food lockers at Wonder Lake. It seemed like half a lifetime ago. The side streams were numerous and clear so I had little need to carry the weight of water throughout the day.
It was a steep struggle to escape the river and climb to Stody’s Hut. I entered the hut which was an old mustering shelter, complete with dirt floor and bunks for 6 people. I was alone. I signed the hut register as usual but noted that 2.5 hours ahead of me a girl had lost her hiking partner and was off in search of her and some mobile phone service. I hadn’t seen anyone and last I heard the nearest hiker to me was a day ahead. After cooking dinner and getting ready for sleep I wondered if all was ok. Is someone lost?