February 20th 2017
Starveall hut – Mt Rintoul hut
Total distance: 1182.6 miles
I had some very odd dreams last night. One particular one I was dreaming I was jumping into a swimming pool, but the water kept getting further and further away, when I hit the water I went down really deep and I was struggling to break the surface to get air. So I decided to do a big dolphin kick to help myself, but I did the kick in real life and smacked the wall really hard which jolted me awake, and probably everyone else in the hut!
We set off at a very early 7:30am, saying farewell to Lars who has decided to head back down and meet up with some other people during his limited stay in New Zealand. It started off clear and with a bit of a climb and the views became really good, some cloud started to roll in fairly quickly, that’s how quickly things can change around here. We then descended and climbed again (theme for the day) to get to Slaty hut. We went through a forest to get there, and it was a bit different to any of the forests we had been through before. Small mossy trees and lots of daddy long legs type of creatures. At the hut I prepared my lunch, we had planned to stop at Old Man Hut but then realised it was a 500ft descent to get there, meaning a 500ft ascent to get back to the trail which I had no desire to do. We planned to eat lunch at the junction to the hut instead.
I was going super slowly, partly because it was hot, partly because I was taking pictures every 5 minutes and partly because I was tired. Permanently tired. But we didn’t have too many miles to do and if I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and maintained a 1 mile an hour pace everything would be ok. There were no flat sections today, it was either steep up or steep down.
The weather improved after Slaty hut and the views were epic, I felt great despite moving so slowly. The sun was intense on my left side and I stopped to put on some suncream. Over here it feels like your burn within about 30 seconds. My body was a bit sore today, my right hip hurt from the fall and my left hip was a bit sore because I think I spent most of the night on that side to avoid the sore hip.
From Slaty hut to the junction of Old Man hut it’s probably best if the photos do the talking:
I passed Amaury taking a break and then I found Colin and Sandy eating lunch at the junction. Julia had gotten cold and decided not to wait. I had no need or desire to rush today and sometimes it feels like everyone else is in a race and trying to get there as quick as possible or to be the first one there. It’s a weird mentality that seems to envelop people on a thru-hike. Colin said last night that he would like to slow down instead of racing through and not taking in his surroundings.
After a short lunch break it was the beginning of two back to back, very steep ascents and descents. The first one was to Little Rintoul summit. 1000ft over 0.8 miles. Of course I wasn’t looking forward to it. I hate climbing, but I love getting to the top. Julia and Amaury were way ahead and Colin and Sandy were behind me, and I was expecting to be overtaken at any moment. But I plodded on up the very rocky and loose climb. It was mostly a path but in patches it was a rock scramble, just using the orange poles to find the way. The descent was then pretty terrifying. It was steep loose rock that made me fear for my life with every step. It took ages to get down, and once at the bottom we then had to ascend around 1000ft, this time in 0.7 miles up to Rintoul summit. Colin said he was happy to stay behind me, I like to think I have been instrumental in his attempt to slow down a bit. And it was nice for me to get to the top with another person and celebrate our achievements with a high five. We waited for Sandy who wasn’t far behind. I was now out of water and really dehydrated. I ate a piece of chocolate and it stuck all around my mouth and I could barely swallow it. On the climb I had visions of getting to the hut and just sticking my head under the tap of the water tank and just letting it flow into my mouth. The water at Slaty hut had tasted of smoke so I didn’t get any there because it makes me feel sick. I just hoped there would be good water at the next hut.
The descent was still hairy but less life threatening. The rocks were slippery, but this time the ground was a lot looser so it was similar to descending Mt Doom on Tongariro, I was able to slide down a lot of it. Of course I fell over a couple of times when the sliding got out of control but all in all not too bad a descent. I was glad when it was over though as it takes so much out of you this whole trying to stay alive thing.
The trail notes claim that this is one of the toughest sections of the whole TA, because of the rock scrambling and the steepness. Well, glad I made it through that one safely. Just.
At the hut the first thing I did was down a litre of delicious cold rain water and I instantly felt so much better. The sun was super strong at the hut and it was too hot to sit outside, although we did and we suffered our way through it. We had some cell service so decided to book beds in St Arnaud where we will be in 4 days time. It was a bit of a palava, mostly because I had a big delay on my Skype call but we managed to get something sorted. They were pretty booked up and we couldn’t get a dorm bed, we have a private room instead.
There are another couple here from Wyoming, Ryan and his wife Corine. They are hiking the South Island, having hiked the north a couple of years ago. After dinner of tuna and crackers, cookies, a cereal bar, some crisps and chocolate – I was hungry this evening – everyone chipped in to trying to mend Julia’s trekking pole. Colin was relentless and continued long after everyone else had given up hope and ended up fixing it, for now anyway!
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.