Nichols Hut to Otaki Forks (Tararua Ranges)
I woke up to the sound of wind whistling around the hut. The door was also knocking in the wind. Not a good sign considering we were climbing to the summit of Mt Crawford early in the morning along a long, narrow and very exposed ridgeline. I had set my alarm for 6am so Jesse and I could make an early start at it. The wind was forecast to get gradually stronger throughout the day. When we got up it was cold and blowing and we were in the clouds. I had a quick breakfast of trail mix and got out of my warm thermals that I wear to bed most nights. I layered up with a windproof jacket and neck gaiter but that’s all as I knew I was going to get warm very quickly.
Straight out of the hut the steep ascent started. It took just under two hours to make the 2km climb. The wind was blowing hard as we followed the narrow ridgeline up to the summit. It comes in sideways but with lift as it comes up the mountain. We could not see anything but cloud. There were no views but it was such an awesome and exhilarating experience. It was really fun being up so high and battling the wind and elements. We did not spend long at the summit. On a fine day it would have been spectacular views but much the same as we saw yesterday on a peak that was at about the same elevation. I am glad I got to experience both the good and bad weather up there that the ranges are notorious for.
Then we had to come down. We dropped 1000m in elevation over 4kms. In other words, we were looking down through our feet for over two hours. We descended for some time before coming back into the treeline and back into the ancient mossy forest. It looked even more magical in the clouds than yesterday. Then we were below the clouds. As we got further down, the forest changed and we could hear birds again. At the bottom we crossed a river over a wire foot bridge. Not as strong as the ones on the Timber Trail so much more wobbly. We stopped at the Waitewaiwai hut for lunch and then carried on for the second half of the day out of the ranges to Otaki Forks. It was a tough trail starting with another big climb up 500m of elevation. There were heaps of fallen trees over the track. Some you had to climb over, through, under or right around. There were stream crossings and lots more mud. Jesse and I are both feeling tired after so many big days but really enjoying it too. We talk a lot about what food we plan to eat when get out and if there will be a bar or cafe. We arrived at the Parawai lodge doc hut just before five so it was another 10 hour day.
Josh rolled in two hours later, followed by Freek and then Katrina.
Technically we have finished the Tararuas but tomorrow there is one more big mountain to get over before coming down into Waikanae. We will rise early again to get stuck into it. It is the home stretch now for me and Jesse. While I am really enjoying it still, I am also really happy to be finishing and going home soon. But I’ll save my reflections for later.