Starveall Hut 1846.3km to Tarn Hut 1872.8km
The wind overnight would blow up the valley like an approaching freight train. Trying it’s best to break the hut. At times it felt like it might succeed. I was on the top bunk of the small 6 bed hut. I lay right up against the wall. When strong gusts hit the hut, the walls and bed would move causing me to wake. I woke a lot.
There was a cold strong wind that blew from the west when I set off. It was 7am and the morning sun was starting to light up the mountains. The trail weaved through stunted trees for a short distance before exposing me to the cold brutally of the wind. The tussock grasses danced. I was not moving to their same rhythm when I almost fell in the strong gusts. Behind me I could see the ocean.
I cleared the first ridge took a turn to the right then headed down on the leeward side of the mountain. It was calm. I could relax again. How far would I be able to hike today, I thought. Not far in this wind. Earlier I checked the mountain weather forecast. 50km/h (30mph) winds in the morning, easing to 30Km/h (20mph) during the day before picking up to 50km/h in the evening. If the forecast was correct, it should get better.
I rested at a hut after 2 hours of hiking. A hot chocolate mixed with coffee served to boost the energy levels, at least for a little while. There were so many huts on this trail, so many choices of places to stay. I’m impressed.
From the hut the trail climbed to follow a long but windy ridge line. Distant mountains came into view. I was reminded of Colorado, parts of the Continental Divide trail. High steep sided mountains all around, some of which were still covered in snow but they seemed to be a long way away. I slowed down on the ridges. Not because it was hard but because I spent so much time absorbing the landscape.
10am photo below
I passed several hikers as they struggled on steep scree slopes. With a lighter pack I was able to descend much quicker and safer, not to mention the less stress I was putting on my body. And my body was feeling great. It has ample energy and was bounding along the trail in complete contrast to yesterday afternoon.
The ridgeline gave way to a saddle that turned left to follow another ridge before a long and slow climb. The slow going was made slower by the soft scree and larger unstable rocks. I was on the leeward side of the mountain so I had no idea if the wind had eased as predicted or not. Above it was blue sky with the occasional mountain cloud coming and going. The views made for hiking nirvana.
I reached the summit and the wind picked up but not too much. Again I lingered for the views. I wondered if hiking in New Zealand could get any better than this. For someone who loves hiking these mountains, these views made me a happy man. Until I had to descend. Steep with unstable rocks and enough loose scree to keep any gravel supply company in business for years. The unstable surface continued for another couple of hours before I could rest at yet another hut.
I lingered to chat with some northbound hikers until a familiar face appeared. I knew the face but from where not. I thought it was from the Continental Divide trail several years ago. “Shepherd”, he said. It was Dragon aka Dan. We met on the CDT but never hiked together. Small world.
It was getting late but I decided to push on to the next hut. I knew Jean from France would be there. He hikes too fast for me. When I arrived I found another Triple Crowner staying there. An Australian/Kiwi triple crowner, John. I can’t remember his trail name. Kiwi and Australian triple crown hikers are not that common. It’s a very small club indeed but it grows bigger every year. Actually, are there any readers who know how many Australian and New Zealand triple crown hikers there are?