Pelorus River and Richmond Alpine Tracks
I started day 1 from Pelorus Bridge walking with Jim, an Irishman I had met on the QC. He was only intending to hike out to the first hut and then return as he only had a few days before he had to make his way home.
Pelorus Bridge was nice, with a good campsite next to the river and not to many sandflies. The cafe was open as well and I got to buy a chicken and camember pie and a coffee. Great!
We had breakfast at the cafe and then set of. The track followed the road for the first ten or twelve km, but then turned into a track at the end of the road. It was a lot rougher than the QC with some suspension bridges and a much smaller track. After about an hour we reached Emerald Pool where I decided to take a quick dip in the very inviting water. But the sand flies were really bad and after just a minute in the water I had to grab my stuff and we retreated to further up the track and had a lunch of canned apricots that Jim had with him.
It was then a reasonably hard slog to Captains Creek hut where we stayed for the night. Again, it was a wonderful place, but it was impossible to stay outside due to the sandflies.
After a breakfast of chocolate digestives, Jim set of back down again and I kept heading south. Just before Biddy hut I met an couple on the way down, but they were in a hurry and did not stop to say much.
At Biddy Hut I had an early lunch break and refilled with water.
The 5 km up to Rocks Hut were really hard. I had to stop at least 4 times to have a short rest. It is partly because I am not in great shape yet, but also because of the cold that I have had since the start of the QC. I haven’t wanted to tell anyone about it due to the Coronavirus scare, but I have had a mild cold for the whole trip and really felt it on this long upwards section.
A way up I met Ben, a nobo hiker who stopped and gave some great tips about where and when I might have to send resupply boxes.
I finally made it to Rocks Hut and even though I had only done 10 or so km for the day, I decided that it was enough. I have to recover from my cold and begin slowly try to build up some stamina.
I ate peanut butter and apple sauce wraps and then walked up to the lookout where there was supposed to be phone coverage. I managed to update Instagram for the first time in 3 days so now people know I’m still alive at least.
I then returned to the hut and had some cold soaked noodles. It as actually quite ok.
A hiker came through very quickly, Lewis, who was hiking all the way from Pelorue Bridge to Hacket Hut today!
He had been trying to set a new record for the TA but had been detained in the north by both sickness and bad weather. Apparently somebody set a new record this year of 49 days.
Just when I was thinking that I would have the hut all to myself and was listening to an audiobook, Kerry an American girl turned up. She was hiking through to Queenstown and came up from Emerald Pool today.
I started out early from Rocks Hut, at 8. Slow going to start with as I felt far from strong, but the day went well with a stop for lunch at Brownings Hut.
It was generally good going, with some rougher sections and a bit of up. Mostly down though, which is going to make the start of tomorrow a hard climb, 900 m up!
Arrived at Hacketts Hut at around 2, had some peanut butter and then lay listening to Neverwhere.
Kerry turned up about 90 minutes later and as she had started after me, seemed to have done the same pace as me.
A little while later, a German girl, Victoria, turned up with warnings that there was a large group of German speaking people coming up behind us. I have been enjoying being more or less on my own and am not looking forward to crowded huts so I hope they are taking it slow and remain behind us.
Still feeling far from strong and reading the trail notes for the coming days makes me realize that it is going to be hard work all through the next week!
Two more people showed up during the afternoon, Robert, a German hiker doing the full TA, and a kiwi guy heading out for just a couple of days.
During the night, the kiwi guy had what I assume was a nightmare and cried out loudly a couple of times in his sleep. Sleeping in huts can be challenging in many different ways !
In the morning there was much discussion about how far to go during the day in order to not end up in huts that were too crowded. The general consensus was that if we went all the way to Old Man Hut, 3 huts away, we should be able to keep the larger party following behind us. I just decided to start and see what happened, I would have to decide where I stopped depending on how I felt as the day progressed.
Well, it turned in to a long, hard day. Only 21km, but with 1820m of climbing on some pretty rough, sometimes nonexistent, tracks, it was tough. But so worth it. Some amazing scenery and 3 different summits along the way.
It was Victoria, Robert and I that pushed on through the day and standing on a summit and looking back at the path we had taken, it was sometimes unbelievable that we had come along the tracks that we had. There was a bit of ridge walking and even some scrambling, almost rock climbing, and you needed to keep your wits about you and be careful.
I was very tired climbing the last summit up to Old Man Mountain, having to stop and catch my breath every 5 to 10 steps. As I reached the top, there was a cloud slowly starting to cover the mountain and I was very aware that I needed to keep moving and get of the ridge before visibility became too bad. As it was, it never turned into a problem, but I was continually checking how far the cloud was behind me.
I also carried an extra 3 liters of water from Slaty Hut to Old Man as we had been told there was no water there. But when we arrived we found there was water, though not very much. I could have done with not carrying the extra weight, lets just say that I was very tired when I finally arrived at Old Man hut!
There was an English couple already at the hut but there was enough room for all of us and I slept well that night.
The next day we set of towards first Mt Rintoul and then Tarn hut. Another brilliant but challenging day. Only 1430 meters of climbing, but the days were starting to ad up and my energy levels were not great.
But it was hard not to get inspired when looking out across the landscape.
Again I had to carry extra water from Rintoul hut to Tarn hut as Tarn hut was out of water. This time it was correct, and I am glad I carried the extra weight.
The next day the rain started…
We walked through the morning from Tarn Hut to Mid Wairao hut in rain and mist, through some pretty rough tracks. We then decided to stick closer together during the afternoon trek to Top Wairao hut as it followed the river and entailed 8 river crossings. We all felt a bit safer knowing there was somebody close by if something were to go wrong and wanted to get this section done as we did not know if it was going to continue raining. If it did, it could make the river crossings difficult or even impossible.
It was a long wet afternoon and when I finally arrived at the steep climb up to Top Wairao hut, I was wasted! I climbed up the gravel hill, past the toilet and could finally see the hut. There was smoke coming from the chimney and when I opened the door I was greeted by Victoria, Robert and another German couple that we had caught up to. Not only had the couple started a fire, they had boiled water and offered us hot chocolate. Talk about angels!
The next day was yet another day in rain and mist between Top Wairao hut and Hunters hut, a bit more exposed and higher than the day before and there were several stages were you had to be careful to make sure you could see the next trail marking before you lost sight of the last one.
The afternoon from Hunters hut to Porters Creek hut was slightly better, not as wet and it actually started to clear up during the evening.
The last day started from Hunters hut to Red Hills hut and felt surprisingly good. I had eaten a double portion of noodles the night before and felt like I had a bit more energy. From Red Hills hut we had the option of taking the long way up and down the mountains, or the shorter Red Hills track just 7 km down to the road and then hitchhike in to St Arnaud. With the weather being like it was, Robert, the German couple and I all took the short route and Victoria decided to stay the night in the hut and do the mountains the next day. Not really an option for me as I had absolutely no food left!
I had planned for 9 days but the food only just lasted 8, and even then I had probably not been eating enough each day to sustain the amount of walking and climbing that I was doing.
When Robert and I arrived down at the road, we were lucky to get a ride into St Arnaud almost straight away, a guy from the Netherlands stopped and drove us into “town”.
I am having 2 rest days here to shop and rest. I need food for 5 to 8 days for the next section and this time I want to make sure to have enough!
This hike has been great, even if it was tough. I would highly recommend it to anyone but just make sure you know what you are getting into, it’s not an easy hike!
I would have liked to do it slower if food and weather would have permitted, just to have been able to enjoy the outstanding scenery even more.
Now I have to head of and feed my hiker hunger with some burgers and beers in order to get my energy levels back up for the next section…