This morning there was a heavy mist but by the time I left at 0730 it had cleared around the hut but was still in the valleys below. Fred and Nev left and after a sightseeing tour of the creek came back and headed in the right direction. I followed 5 minutes later.
After only 5 minutes I saw an alpine Weta which is a first for me so I was pretty happy. I was feeling good and enjoyed the steady climb up through the tussock. There was a track so it was easy going. The mist returned for a short while and it was lucky there was a track as the markers were too far apart to see through the mist. The last part of the climb was steep and a mixture of tussock and gravel.
At the top I took a photo with Fred and Nev then started down ahead of them. The steep part of the descent was scree so I was able to bound down which was fun.
Then it was following the very far apart marker poles. For some reason the picture in my head of this section was very different from the reality. This meant it was taking me a while to find the markers as I was often looking in the wrong direction to start. There was no track to follow to see the right direction and I picked my own path between the tussock. This was a fun section that had a lot of up and down and great scenery though occasionally the mist returned.
The track joined an old vehicle track that was largely down to one side due to rockfall and slips. After crossing a strange looking stock bridge I reached Stone Hut where I took a break. It took exactly 3 hours to reach this hut. Just as I was leaving Fred and Nev turned up.
Next was 5.5 km travelling beside a river and there was a trail to follow as well as the marker poles. This was also a good section and seemed to pass quickly and I arrived at Royal Hut in 1 hour 30 minutes. I had a long break here to have lunch. While eating I read the back of the door which had the names of mustering crews going back to 1944. The hut was named Royal Hut after Prince Charles and Princess Anne stayed there. I also read the Hut Book and saw an entry for H. Clarke. This is Helen Clarke who used to be our Prime Minister and now the head of the United Nations Development Programme, arguably the second most important position in the United Nations. She is a keen tramper and it looked an interesting and challenging route her party was taking.
At 1315 I headed up the valley for the big climb of the day to the highest point on the entire Te Araroa trail. It started going up beside a stream crossing frequently before heading steeply up through untracked tussock to a plateau then up steeply, another smaller plateau and then the final climb to Stag Saddle at 1925 meters above sea level which was the highest point on Te Araroa. However now the route officially offers the ridge option to the next hut for the first year so the highest point is now on the ridge at 1944 meters. The original route was down the valley in thick tussock but it is marked. The new route is unmarked and from the saddle travel over rocks and then a climb up to the ridge where there was a great track and great views over Lake Tekapo and the Southern Alps. Unfortunately it was a little cloudy but still impressive. At the high point I climbed above the track to the cairn which I placed another stone on.
After some photos I continued 3.5 km along the ridge and the track stayed excellent until above Rex Simpson hut. From there it was tussock bashing along the ridge for another 2.5 km. Luckily the tussoch was not too thick and I could weave through the open bits and maintain good speed.
I dropped off the ridge to a vehicle track which I followed to the hut. As I aproached I saw two people outside. This was Snir from Israel going north and Antoine from Switzerland going south. Snir offered me a tea and Timtams so was instantly popular with me. Camp Stream Hut was built in 1897 which for New Zealand is ancient. It is the smallest 6 bunk hut I have seen and as a result we hung out outside to cook dinner and talk. It was fantastic seeing the clouds rolling over the ridge behind but was cold enough I had to put on my jacket. As usual we went to bed around 2115 as it got dark