Te Araroa day 86 – ups and downs 

February 26th 2017
Upper Travers Hut – Blue Lake Hut
9.7 miles 
Total distance: 1252.8 miles

I had a great nights sleep and woke naturally at 7am with a clear head. I had obviously need that 9 hour sleep. We packed up and left the hut just after 8am, the whole area was covered in condensation. 


Nothing like a 1600ft climb to get you going on the morning! We were straight into it and heading into the clouds, we hoped either the wind or the sun would clear the clouds away as we climbed, but unfortunately for us they didn’t clear away, in fact they seemed to get thicker the closer we got to the top. We took the climb slowly, with me setting space designed for us to not get out of breath. It became difficult to see the orange marker poles and we would have to stop for a few moments to spot them in the mist. The trail was mostly rocky, which I prefer to a slope, because you gain height more quickly and it only took us an hour and 10 minutes to reach the top. Although we successfully managed to get there without breathing too hard we were still sweating profusely. 


We considered waiting around at the top for a bit to see if the clouds cleared away but we decided that you win some and you lose some and today just wasn’t our day for views on Travers Saddle. We began the descent which was about 3000ft over 1.75 miles. We heard it was a bit rough going, but compared to the descent from Little Rintoul in the Richmond Ranges this wasn’t that bad at all. It was super rocky at first, but as we moved on the clouds began to part and we could see small patches of blue sky and glimpses of the mountains ahead of us. The clouds hung low in the valley and it looked really awesome. Being above the clouds is one of my favourite things. We could see that we were about to descend into the forest and lose the views so we stayed up there for a little bit absorbing it all. 


The descent became a lot steeper through the forest and it was a challenge for the knees, but it wasn’t as slippery as some of the downhills we have done, so we made it down to West Sabine hut in 4 hours and stopped there for lunch. I forced down a tuna wrap considering I was carrying a couple of extra tunas left over from my last resupply, and I was absolutely starving by the time we reached the hut. 


It was only 1pm and our next hut was listed as being 3 hours away, which would probably be less as we tend to go a little quicker than the notes suggest. We decided to leave and hang out at Blue Lake hut as West Sabine hut was a bit gross, heavily used. After crossing the river on a swing bridge the trail followed the river the whole way, gently for the most part, and steeply in others, and climbed up to the hut. After hiking together this morning I think Julia got a bit frustrated at being stuck behind me and she went off ahead. Given that we had over 7 hours of daylight left and only 3 hours of hiking I took my time. The trail was quite rocky but otherwise not too difficult to walk on. There were a bunch of side streams to cross but it was easy to hop across on rock or strategically placed branches and logs. The river was quite hypnotic in places, it was roaring, flowing so fast and the colour and the power made me frequently stop in my tracks just to gaze a it. Looking behind me I could see it flowing down to where we had come up from, and there were small waterfalls coming out of the sides of the mountain that were feeding the river. 


We followed cairns through a rocky area which I successfully navigated by hopping across the rocks and when I got back into the forest I slipped and took quite a fall. I bashed my knee and my forearm (the opposite one to the one I bashed last time), and the weight of my pack went over my head and pinned me to the ground. I was wedged between the rocks unable to move. The snacks had been launched from my pocket and my phone had been thrown from my pack. I had to undo all the clips on my pack and wiggle out of it to be able to stand up. I had bent my trekking pole which I was annoyed about, but it provides a small distraction from the pains in my knee and arm. As I was trying to bend my pole back a man came along from the other direction and asked if I was ok. I hadn’t thought about crying yet but the mans kindness brought on a prickle to the backs of my eyes. I assured him I was fine and he went on his way leaving me free to have a little self-pity-weep. I picked up my things and sat on a rock for a bit where I ate the rest of my jelly sweets one straight after the other until they were all gone and I felt better. 


I carried on, picking my way through the forest and eventually made it to the hut in under 3 hours. I went to check out Blue Lake – the clearest fresh water lake in the world with visibility of up to 80 metres (40 meters is considered good visibility in water). It was very clear! And the temperature is around 5-8°C so not a lot grows in it to make it murky. It looked far more impressive in real life than anything I could capture on camera, especially with the slight breeze making ripples on the surface. 


We were at the hut super early around 4pm, but it wasn’t practical to go further with the climb over Waiau pass ahead of us. We hung around, ate some snacks, chatted and watched the other people arrive. Sandy and Colin made it so we are reunited with them which is nice, Robin, Amaury and a few of the same people who were at Upper Travers hut with us last night arrived so there are quite a few people in the hut tonight. It’s a 16 bunk hut and I think it might be full. 


Apparently there are mice in this hut and there are possums that like to climb on the roof. That combined with a lot of people might make for an interesting nights sleep. Around 8:30 it started to rain, hopefully it will clear up for our hike over the pass tomorrow. 

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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. 

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