Update 15: The Richmond Range

Day 70: Sunday January 13th, 19.8mi/31.8km

Pelorus Bridge (1794.8/35m) to Rocks Hut (1826.6/814m)

We had a leisurely morning at the campground, and packed up at 7:30am and walked down to the cafe. Kuba and Kacka bought coffee, and I got a muffin, which we enjoyed while charging our phones. Finally, at 9:15am we roll out of the campground, and walk the 14km gravel road all morning.

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The road ends, and the Pelorus Track begins. It’s a pretty nice track!

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The swingbridges are always fun. Bounce, bounce…

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We stopped for a swim in the “emerald pool”, a deep and swimmable part of the Pelorus River. There is a picnic table at the spot, so we took a lunch break too. The white graffitti on the table is cute, “All you need is love”.

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The water temperature was nice, just cool enough to feel refreshing. But there are sooo many sandflies! And with a bunch of other people around, we decide to skip swimming.

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I continue on, as I try to make it to the next hut 5km away, in time for a toilet stop, ha! After an hour, I arrive to Captains Creek Hut, which is pretty nice. I stay only a few minutes, and then I’m back on the trail, hiking the 5km to Middy Creek Hut. It’s a nice hut, but there are sandflies everywhere, so I only linger for 10 minutes.

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I hike the 5km climb up to Rocks Hut, gaining 650m in just over an hour. Ouch! I arrive at 6:30pm, and there is only one other person in the hut, a friendly Kiwi named Clare.

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Kuba and Kacka arrive an hour later, and we have dinner together at the indoor dining table. It’s nice to be this high up, there’s no sandflies! Everyone is in bed at 9:30pm, since we all expect a tiring day tomorrow in these big mountains!

 

Day 71: Monday January 14th, 15.3mi/24.7km

Rocks Hut (1826.6/814m) to Slaty Hut (1851.3/1399m)

I’m awake at 6:45am, feeling very refreshed, I slept really well. I packed up quietly, as the other 5 hut residents were still sleeping. I said good-bye to Kuba and Kacka, and leave the hut at 7:30am. 

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It was a beautiful but cold morning, and I hiked up and along the ridge for a couple hours, admiring the swirling clouds and views.

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I stopped at Browning hut at 10:30 for a break, and saw a solo hiker leaving, she waved as she walked away. I had a snack and drink, then continued another 3km to Hacket Creek Hut. It was a quick lunch, as I wanted to get up the next climb before any rain came. Past Hacket Hut, the track becomes noticeably more rugged.

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I slowly pushed up the hill, and just over 2 hours later I had climbed the 900m to the Starveall Hut. I walked right past it, since it was already 2:30pm, and I was trying to make it to the next hut.

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I charged up the exposed hill, passing two other hikers, Rose (Quebec) and Elena (Netherlands). The views are incredible.

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I arrive to Slaty Hut at 3:45pm, and see Alison again. I also meet 2 American guys from Idaho and Montana.

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I setup in the hut, and then get some photos of the late afternoon sun on the mountains. The light is really cool!

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We have dinner on the designated table inside the hut (it’s windy outside). The two indoor residents (Alison and Megan) don’t seem to be in a conversational mood, so I go chat outside with the two American guys. They are camping out on this cold windy ridgetop! I’m in bed at 9pm and sleep great in the warm hut.

 

Day 72: Tuesday January 15th, 17.6mi/28.3km

Slaty Hut (1851.3/1399m) to Mid Wairoa Hut (1879.6/395m)

I woke at 6:30am, and two of the other girls are already getting ready. Getting packed up is easy in a hut, as there’s no tent to pack up, and I’m on trail at 6:55am. It’s cold, so I wear pants for the first time since the first day, way back at Cape Reinga! It’s a beautiful exposed ridgewalk, and I enjoy every minute of the morning light.

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I catch up to Alison at 8:30am, and she interviews me for a podcast that she does, “blissful tramper” (I think?). She was much more talkative today, it was fun! Then, onwards with the epic ridgewalk…

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I pass by the turnoff for Old Man Hut, and continue on the epic ridgewalk, climbing up Little Rintoul mountain (el. 1643m). I meet a couple of TA hikers at the top, a Kiwi guy from Wellington, and a German girl.

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It’s getting hot, so I change to shorts and t-shirt. I hike a little further, and get to the top of Mt. Rintoul at 11:30am. It’s 1731m high, so there are amazing views in every direction.

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I hike downhill a quick 30 minutes to Rintoul Hut and have lunch. It’s a beautiful day, and I have a leisurely lunch while reading the Hut register. It’s fun to see my friends who came thru last year!

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I leave the hut for the next peak, Purple Top Mountain. It’s an easy climb, then along a ridge in the forest with lots of bugs (wasps?). I get to Tarn Hut at 3:30pm and take a break.

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It’s early, so I continue onto Mid-Wairoa Hut, another 7km away. It’s a nice walk in the forest.

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I arrive to the hut at 5:50pm and surprisingly it’s empty! I spend the next 3 hours relaxing, eating dinner, and planning the next section, before falling asleep at 9pm.

 

Day 73: Wednesday January 16th, 15.0mi/24.1km

Mid Wairoa Hut (1879.6/395m) to Porters Creek Hut (1903.7/895m)

I woke up at 6:45am, and was hiking at 7:15am. The trail followed the creek for a couple hours, which was nice, but it was a horrible side-hill trail.

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It was also very narrow in spots with long drop-offs, so it was scary and slow going. I cross the Wairoa River Left Branch, which was an easy ford. 

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Just after the ford is the Upper Wairoa Hut, and I have a long snack break. I was so busy focusing on the sketchy trail all morning, I forgot to stop and eat, and it’s already 10:30am! I hike up the rest of the hill, which climbs above the trees, so there is no longer any shade. 

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I get to the topmost point of the ridge and have a nice lunch. It’s only 1pm, so I eat slowly and catch up on internet on my phone. I leave at 2pm and fly down the hill, passing two friendly German women on the way to Hunters Hut. I have a brief break at the hut and explore the surroundings. 

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I depart the hut at 3:30pm, aiming for Porters Creek Hut for tonight. There are a couple of small climbs, and then a long descent to Porters Creek Hut on a slanty slippery trail.

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Looking back up the trail that I just hiked down:

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The trail isn’t benched into the hillside, and the side-slope was contantly making me slip on the loose gravel. With the scary part of the trail finished, I arrived at the hut at 6:15pm.

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There is one other hiker at the hut, a guy from the UK. We have dinner at 7pm, and then I entertain myself with the hut register book. My friends are ahead of me, and they left me some notes!

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I switch to reading my regular book, and pass out at 9:30pm.

 

Day 74: Thursday January 17th, 19.6mi/31.5km

Porters Creek Hut (1903.7/895m) to St. Arnaud Village (1935.2/638m)

I’m awake at 6:30 again, and it’s cold in Porters Creek Hut. I pack quietly as to not wake the other hiker, and start hiking at 7am.

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It’s cold for the first 10 minutes, then suddenly warms up.

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The trail has some scary sections – sidehill hiking with loose round gravel underfoot, and it’s a long way down to the valley bottom. I climb up/down several small valleys, and take a shade break during the final climb to Red Hills hut. I get to the hut at 11am, and have a snack, only to realize I have almost no food left!

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I love the note that someone left for the NOBO hikers, who are just starting the Richmond Range at this point.

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The view from the hut is pretty nice.

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The final part of the trail is on a nice mountain bike path, but it climbs up/down annoyingly, and finally I reach the 1300m highpoint, and the dirt road.

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I walk down the easy gentle grade, taking a final snack break on the road at 1pm. I’m now out of snack foods, but I’m just a few hours from town. And there are nearby sheep to distract me from hunger.

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I catch up and pass a hiking couple, and walk the 8km of paved road into the town of St. Arnaud. It’s 4:30pm, so I check-in to the St. Arnaud lodge, get my food packages (that I shipped to myself from Wellington), shower, and order a pizza!

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My roommate at the lodge is a German who is hiking NOBO, he loves talking about gear. We talk pretty late into the night, I don’t go to bed until 11pm.

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