February 19th 2017
Rock hut – Starveall hut
Total distance: 1171.3 miles
Unfortunately Lars is a snorer! Rock hut is a 16 bunk hut and is set up with 8 bunks on either side of a wall, we ended up with 5 of us on one side and Lars was on his own on the other. That’s the problem with hooking up with a group, you never know what you’re going to get. But the snoring didn’t bother me at all and I slept pretty well. Someone had an alarm that went off at 6:30am, and of course once someone is up and rustling about it is impossible to sleep any more. I remained lying down until 7 and I was the last one to get up, but the first to be packed up and ready. I don’t need much time in the morning.
We ended up leaving at around 8am, it was already really humid and we had a bit of a climb before we descended to Browning hut. I was sweating profusely right from the off. The tree roots and the rocks were so slippery, I was sliding all over the place and I was going really slow because I was being so cautious. I was thankful that there was no mud to get through. One section looked as though a huge storm had blown through, there were lots of uprooted trees and blowdowns, but luckily for us they had been cut down where the trail was. A couple of hours into the day I fell over, and I went down hard. I stepped with my right foot and there must have been a hidden root because my foot just slipped out from underneath me and I landed on my right hip and right forearm on some rocks. The pain was intense and I knocked the wind out of myself. I was a bit shocked and as I tried to take in some air I started to cry because of the pain, real big fat sobs. The pain in my arm was so much that I was worried I may have broken something and a huge lump came up instantly.
I sat on the wet forest floor for a few minutes to regain my composure, and then there was nothing left to do but carry on hiking. It hurt to hold my trekking pole and every time I walked I could feel my hip, I had some scrapes on my knee, but other than that I was ok. The trail climbed above the tree line for a bit and with the clouds clearing we started to get some views, the trail was marked by orange posts which I had a bit of difficulty spotting, so I was glad we had good visibility otherwise I would have had no chance in cloudy weather.
I walked even more cautiously on the rest of the descent and had several near misses as I slipped and tripped my way down the trail. It’s physically exhausting, but it’s mentally exhausting too when the trail is like this because you have to concentrate on every step. I eventually made it to Browning hut where Lars, Julia, Colin and Sandy were sat at the picnic table having lunch. I was so hungry and enjoyed my cheese and salami wrap. I have gone fancy for this section and purchased a stick of salami instead of the slices, it was expensive, about NZ$10, but it was so worth it. It tastes so good.
We then had a couple more miles of descent to Hacket hut and the start of the Richmond Alpine Track, we were about to head into the Richmond Range proper. There was a French couple at the hut, we were a bit worried that the hut we were heading for, which only has 6 bunks – good for our group – would be overcrowded, but they didn’t seem in any hurry to move on. The bugs were nasty there and I got bitten several times so Julia and I carried on while the others went for a swim in the river. I would have loved to have got in the river as it was so so hot, but I also didn’t want to walk with wet pants.
The next section to Starveall hut was a monster climb of 3000ft over 3 miles. I really wasn’t looking forward to it, I knew it was going to be too steep, too hot and too sweaty. It was still early, only about 2pm, but this climb was estimated to take 4.5 hours. We considered going further to Slaty hut but would only make the decision when we got to Starveall. The climb started unexpectedly with a creek we had to cross several times, it was a bit confusing as to where to go and we got a bit lost but then spotted the orange markers further down the stream. It was too difficult to jump from rock to rock, especially with them being so slippery, so we just got our feet wet which actually felt really nice to cool down a bit. The cool water also felt really nice on all my bites around my ankles and I wanted to stay in there for a while.
The climb was brutal, I was dripping with sweat instantly and I was really slow going. In some places we were climbing mountaineering style by taking a couple of steps and resting! Some of the trail was a bit washed out and it was a steep drop back down to the river so I was taking it slowly. We sat down by a stream not far into the climb and tried to cool down a bit. My back was saturated and I had water running down my face. I don’t usually get that sweaty but it was just so humid. The others caught up and I decided to carry on. I feel like I’m one of the slowest in the group, and although I don’t care about being at the back and it isn’t a race, it can feel a bit demoralising when you get overtaken. I was overtaken by Colin and then Julia. I saw Lars coming up behind me and did my best to keep in front of him. I was breathing hard, the sweat was pouring off me and all I wanted to do was stop, but I didn’t want to be overtaken.
I was happy when Julia slowed down and I caught up to her, then we saw Colin stopped by a river taking another swim. We had another break and we were about half way up the climb, we still had about 1500ft to go over only 1.2 miles. I washed my face in the river and made my head wet to try and cool down a bit. I ate the rest of my snacks and then set about tackling the rest of the climb while everyone else was still resting by the river. I though if I get a bit of a head start maybe I wouldn’t be overtaken by everyone.
I did the remainder of the climb without stopping, that was my goal, to just keep going. It was brutally steep and in some places I had to use my hands to pull myself up over rocks and tree roots. I was passed by Colin as he practically runs up, I don’t know how he does it. I was expecting Julia to pass me next but I kept looking behind me and I couldn’t see her. It then became my goal to try and keep ahead of her. And I managed it! After a superhuman effort I was the second person to arrive at the hut which is very unusual for me! We finally broke out of the tree line and the hut was such a welcome sight. Behind the hut were views of the ridges we would be climbing up tomorrow. There was no way I wanted to go any further tonight. I had made it by 5:25 which was an hour less than the time on the sign so that was good. On the other side of the hut we could see down to the sea.
The first thing I did was remove my shirt, it was sodden and my feet were beginning to hurt from being wet all afternoon so it was nice to finally let them breathe. Everyone else arrived shortly afterwards and we sat in the sun, drying out and eating dinner. It looks like the 6 of us will have the hut to ourselves tonight, we have managed to stink it out. It’s ok once you’re inside but if you go out and come back in again the smell really bowls you over.
I’m walking thousands of miles for Just A Drop because everyone should have access to clean water. Please donate here, every little bit helps.