Headlamps woke me at 5am. All the Te Araroa hikers woke early. There was a crowd of 9 hikers packing and eating breakfast in the dark. We all had the same idea of hiking up Traverse pass early. I set off from the hut with Dylan and Martina at 6am.
There was a notice on the hut to keep a lookout for the remains of a hiker that went missing in the area a year earlier. The mountains in this area can be unforgiving.
Clouds rolled up the valley adding to the drama of the morning. I climbed to the top of the pass in an hour and lingered until I was too cold. Clouds rose and fell on all the surrounding peaks like waves on rough seas. I stopped long enough to take some time lapse video before I succumb to the bitter cold. There was little wind, but what wind there was cut through my tropical body. It was time to descend 1000 vertical meters.
I climbed down from the pass quite quickly. My body felt strong. As time progressed the clouds burned off and the temperature rose. As I neared the first hut I hiked past section of trail infested with wasps. My right knee was the first place I felt get stung. A wasp seemed to stab me multiple times per second in a sustained attack. As I swatted it away another took aim at my left elbow. I started jumping and swatting in some sort of uncoordinated dance. Legs and arms kicking and swaying in all directions at one time.
The first hut was filled with hiking gear but no hikers. Lots of hikers taking a day trip up to the next hut which was also my destination.
10am photo below
The trail followed a clear stream which widened to expose steep mountains on either side. Avalanche paths dotted there way up the valley. Devoid of trees these areas would be treacherous during winter.
Blue hut was my lunch stop. I cooked up a large pasta and chatted with another hiker who hiked the Appalachian trail three times, including an attempt at the fastest known time in 1991. He finished the trail in 55 days. Way too fast for me. Now he is hiking the Te Araroa trail with his family.
Dylan, Martina and I say off past Blie lake on route yo lake Constance. Both are classic bright blue lakes. Surrounded by steep side mountains this was the best scenery of the trail to date. But it was also some of the toughest with huge mountain passes to climb.
Waipui pass was another huge climb of 550 meters. We all started climbing at 3.30pm. Steep slippery rocks and scree made the climb not only slow but exhausting. Climbing two big mountain passes in one day is not always a good idea.
I was last to start the climb. Small baby steps had me hiking at an embarrassingly slow pace. My breathing and heartrate were way above average. I couldn’t have a conversation even if I wanted to.
All around were jagged mountain peaks and the braided river flowing into Lake Constance. Often I would stop just to take in the view. Patches of late season snow clung to protected faces and waterfalls fell from the gulleys. New Zealand mountains are certainly very classy.
My legs were shaky and lacking any strength upon reaching the bottom of the valley. I feared if I continued much longer my fatigue might cause a fall which might injure me. I set up camp on the first flat spot I could find. Next to a river in a small clearing there was just enough room for a couple of tents. Large trees and shrubs protected me from the wind but the protection also encouraged the sandflies to find me. I ate dinner and was in the tent very quickly. Dylan and Martina arrived and decided to keep on hiking till it got dark. Today was one of the most physically demanding of the hike to date. I’m sure I’ll sleep well.