Big FAT snow!

Yeah, so guess what. I did some more trekking. Yup. Just like I said I was going to. And you know what? I had fun. As usual. Honestly, having fun all the time can get a little monotonous after a while. It’s like: “Oh great, more fun? Damn, when is it gonna stop??”. Hah, just kidding.

It may seem like I’ve been out in the mountains for like 6 days at a time only to pop my head into civilization for about a day or so to check my email, make a post, then disappear back out to the mountains. Yeah…well, that’s probably because that’s what I’ve been doing. Here’s a rundown of what’s gone down since the Routeburn trek.

So I went out to dinner with Matt and Katrina (whom I met at the beginning of the Caples) for dinner and a beer when we got back to town. It rained that night and it didn’t stop the next morning and luckily, instead of having to pay the 15 bucks to get out to the start of the Rees/Dart track via the bus, Matt offered to give me a lift in his little (really little) car. So I packed up my stuff, left a lot of it at the hostel (my tent, sleeping mat, lonely planet, etc… that I wasn’t gonna need since I would be staying in huts, which are pretty much like little resorts with wood/coal stoves, bunk beds and kitchens, but without electricity, along the way). So we set off and about half way there realized his car wasn’t gonna make it. It couldn’t cross the streams. He would have needed four wheel drive. Or at least a bigger car. So we said goodbye and I walked from there. As I walked (which ended up being about 2 hours to get to the start of the track) in the rain, I saw the bus I didn’t take pass me filled with people.

“Fuck”, I thought. “The huts are gonna be full and I don’t have my tent.”

But what could I do, so I continued on. They all had quite a start on me but I figured I could catch up with at least a few and make it to a bed first (I realized later on that I had nothing to worry about. There was plenty of space at the huts). The track was hard core. Walking through the rain, through rivers you had to cross with your boots on (yeah, you get pretty wet), up really steep sheer drop off hills to avoid the river you were walking along, mud/swamp up to your knees and to top it all off, there was no real track. You just had to follow these orange poles every few hundred meters up the valley and hope you didn’t miss one.

But I eventually caught up with everyone and passed them. I met some cool peeps my age on the way (Ali, I know your reading this, HI!) who were hiding under a rock while eating lunch to avoid the rain.

I forged ahead after dumping the water out of my boots from the river crossing and after a really long day of climbing over mountains and crawling under fallen trees in the forest, I made it to the hut. REALLY nice! It was like a little resort with everything you could want…except like, internet and hot water. And electricity. But it did have toilets that flushed! HARDCORE!

Ali, Cam and Jesse arrived (the girl and guys I met on the track) a little bit after me and we made dinner together after getting the stove going (coal fire) and spent the night chatting and laughing. It was cool.

The next day, we left together after making breakfast and tackled the mountain pass, where you hike up the mountain to the snowline to get to the next valley where the next hut is. We made it all in one peace after scrambling up and then sliding down the other side (it’s up to about 4600 feet) and finally arrived at Dart Hut, which was even more impressive. We hung out, played cards, had dinner, hot chocolate (I have a little gas stove for dinner and, of course, hot chocolate) and talked a lot. We hit the sack about midnight and the next morning, we hiked up towards the Cascade Saddle. Since Ali, Cam and Jesse had to get to school in a day or so, they had to turn around early and head towards the next hut. We said goodbye and I continued on to hike up the mountain. It took me all day to get back, but I hiked right up to the Dart Glacier (very impressive) and made it back to the hut before it got dark.

I stayed there that night and the next day, woke up to big FAT snow, everywhere. It was really coming down and there was about an inch of it on everything. YEAH! The day before was a perfect sunny day which made it kind of weird, but I went to the Whitbourn Valley to check out another glacier anyways. About 10 minutes later it was another perfect sunny day. Weird, huh? The hike was hardcore all the way there. I was going nearly straight down a mountain where there was this drawbridge, then you hike nearly straight up this other mountain, along these foot wide cliffs which plummet down into a raging river below and better yet, there was snow everywhere, making it really slippery. I spent the next 3 hours walking through this crazy volcanic river valley jumping over rivers and streams and climbing up rocks (sometimes wondering how I was gonna get back down). After seeing the tip of the glacier, I turned around and headed back. The trip to the next hut was through mostly grassy flat lands between two incredibly stunning mountain ranges. I made it in 4 hours (as opposed to the 6-8 the signs said it would take) and got back just before dark. I spent the night reading poetry from a book I had bought in Wellington and I got to bed early.

The next day was the last day and after sleeping in, I hiked down the mountain in about 4 hours to the parking lot where the bus picked us all up (my friends had gone out the day before, but I was still with a few others from the trek). I made it back to Glenorchy and stayed the night to recover.

So this morning, I got up early and hitch hiked back to Queenstown and then a little ways out of town to see if I could get a ride.

There were a lot of people hitch hiking and no one was getting rides so I’m heading back to Glenorchy after finishing this post and hiking the Greenstone track tomorrow. The end is right near where I wanted to hitch hike to, so it cuts out the middle man and I get some great hiking in too. Can’t beat it, eh?

I head down to the Kepler track area next to see if I can do any hiking there, which I hear has had the mountain section closed down on account of snow and ice. Crazy, eh?

So today gives me enough time to let my muscles recover from 2 weeks of non stop hiking before doing it again tomorrow. God bless New Zealand!

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