Distance travelled today: 16 km
Total TA distance covered: 2635 km
Up and down, up and down again.
A huge day for so few kilometres. Toughest day for a long time. While it was only 16 km it was a full 7 hour day and I just didn’t have it in me to push any further. I don’t think there was any flat ground all day other than the last 300 metres to Rose’s Hut.
I took off from Fern Burn Hut around 7:30am, gathering my gear and having breakfast outside the hut so as not to disturb everyone. All the other hut occupants were just out for an overnighter and being a Sunday no-one was stirring early.
Straight out from the hut it was up a steep sidle track to Jack Hall Saddle. It was a crisp morning as most mornings are now. Starting out and I had several layers on my top half but soon shed them. Days are getting shorter too. Sun rise is around 7am now. Starting Te Araroa I would think nothing of rising at 5:30, 6am and start walking in the first light. Now it doesn’t make much sense to rise before 7am. The sun hadn’t reached over the peaks just yet and the sidle was in the shade. Only towards the top of the saddle did the sun sneak over the surrounding peaks. Looking back there were some good clear views back towards Lake Wanaka.
Climbing up to the saddle wasnt too bad but the descent, the first of many for the day, was a knee killer. Once down the sidle continued up and around a few streams and passing over spur lines to Highland Creek Hut. At least the sidle was benched.
I had a morning tea break at Highland Hut and got going onto the trickiest section of the track today to Roses Hut. Two major climbs and descents. After crossing the Highland Creek it was straight up for a full kilometre. It was slow going and I found the going tough on my ankles, arches and calves. It was hot too and energy sapping.
Finally at the top of the saddle at noon, the route descended right back down again to the same elevation on the other side. I could clearly see the route ahead and on the other side it was straight into another massive climb up out of a gully for over a kilometre onto a major ridgeline. This descent was another knee killer and it took me a while to get down, planting walking poles in front to take a lot of the weight and shuffle my head down.
At the bottom the trail entered in a remnant patch of beech with a tranquil stream. I stopped here for lunch and an energy hit before the next ascent. Enjoying my wraps I was entertained by a fan tail chasing insects around me.
The next and last ascent for the day was another tough one. It was very slow going just putting one foot in front of the other. I was struggling physically. Sapped of energy after such a hard climb, sweating profusely in the full sun and having difficulties with my feet I had to take it slow. I was winning the mental game though. Constantly reminding myself, yes this is a tough day but there are only a few more weeks left until the end and the trail improves after this section. A couple more weeks of pushing my body. A couple more weeks of dirt and long gaps between proper showers. And a huge party at the end! It will be such an achievement to finish and the end is nigh.
Once on top of the ridge the pay off was worth it. Type 2 fun. Certainly not much fun to do but the rewards were worth it and once its done, fun to talk about. Clear skies and great views back towards Lake Wanaka and up the Mototapu Valley.
One long, slow, final descent down right back down to the valley floor and my day was done. It was just after 3pm. Earlier in the day I had thought of perhaps pushing on a bit if I got to Roses Hut by 3pm but the next 2 kilometres were another climb. I was spent physically and needed a rest. I’ll tackle the climb tomorrow morning.
Maurice from Switzerland was at the hut when I rocked up and a few more people rolled in during the afternoon; 2 NOBOs and late in the Carl appeared having had a huge day from the carpark to this hut. Hige achievement but he was shattered as well.