December 20, 2016
km traveled today: 12
total TA km: 1568.5
We woke up at a late 6:45 and lazily and noisily got out of our bunks and into the cooking/stove area. We tried our best not to wake up Pavel but we certainly failed at that. We made two small pots of oatmeal and by 8, we were on our way up toward Pukematawai.
The climb was pretty steep, and as a trail sign sticker had told us yesterday, this truly was a goat path. The track wound its way up the ridge. To Jasper and my astonishment, our shorter strides carried us quicker up the mountain and we soon left the other two in the dust. The sky was partly cloudy around the mountains, but blue and sunny, and warm. The clouds billowed up and over the mountains around us and then kicked off around in a circle around the Tararua Range. When we reached the false summit, we dropped our packs and sprinted up to the summit.
Unfortunately Jack was still feeling bad, but he kept up regardless. We headed down from the peak after admiring the range and the hut below us, still very visible. We slipped and jumped our way over the ridge line, towards the looming Mount Crawford. The weather kept getting better, the clouds clearing around us, and although there was heavy haze and we couldn’t see very far out, the range kept looking better as the light changed over it.
By noon, we were ready for lunch. We had about half a km to Dracophyllum hut, but Jack decided that it would be a good time to get lost. So instead of keeping tight on a tiny bank bending around a tree, he followed the rock slip down a ways and took about fifteen minutes to find us again.
When we reached Dracophyllum we decided that it’d be passé to make Harry Potter jokes, so we refrained ourselves and took an hour and a half for lunch. Then we decided to carry on the four km to Nichols.
Most of the last four km the trail to Nichols hut was a gradual climb and we booked it. We pushed as hard as we have yet. Exhausting ourselves in the process. Just before we burst back out of the tree line the climb went steep again and through the hot sun we climbed again. We got to see the beautiful range that lay behind us and see exactly how we’d woven our way to where we were.
We summited a 1,200 meter peak before Nichols and looked down at what lay before us. The hut was nestled in a saddle between the peak we stood on and the beginning of the ascent to Mount Crawford. The red roof stood out, acting as a buffer between it and the valley it looked out over. The valley faced east southeast and we could pretend we saw wellington and the South Island.
The 6 bunk hut was cozy and relatively clean. The stove had no firewood, and the water tank was a little iffy so we treated the water. The best part of the hut though, was the thunder box. The door opened up to the valley it looked out over and provided the user with the most spectacular view.
Before dinner Pawel came in sweaty and cheerful, we chatted with him and concluded that he was truly awesome. After hearts and Harry Potter reading, we fell asleep by 9pm preparing ourselves to get up for the sunrise at 5:33.