Old Man Hut to Tarn Hut – 12kms
Old Man Hut was off a side track from the trail and so I started out the day making my way back to the saddle before the climb up to Little Mt Rintoul. This section is rocky and exposed. It involves some scrambling around cliffs and is the most difficult portion of the Richmond Alpine Track. It can’t be done in poor weather. Getting up Little Rintoul was ok as the weather was fine and visibility was good. There was some tricky scrambling around some rock faces with just enough room for my feet and it was a long way down. I was holding on tight and being very careful. Scary stuff! I had caught up to a group and we decided to stick together for the remainder of the mountain as we could see weather starting to move in. The descent down to the saddle between little and big Rintoul was super steep and all on loose scree. We moved very slowly and carefully. As we were coming down, clouds were starting to roll over and we could no longer see the summit. In a way it was a good thing because the track up looked very daunting. The wind picked up and there was some brief rain. After a rest break and adding some layers of clothing we started the ascent to the main summit. Again it was very slow going. The track was mostly loose scree still and I had to take care with every step that I had good grip so I didn’t go sliding and fall backwards. At times the track would dissapear and turn into boulder fields. That required good balance, rock hopping with a heavy pack on. By the time we reached the summit the wind was blowing hard and was really cold. It was a total white out so missed out on all the best views. But that was ok as I was just thrilled to have made it up there and keen to get back down the other side asap! I placed a rock on top of the pile and we took some photos for each other and were only there for five minutes. My hands had gone numb and I was freezing. It was loose scree all the way back down to the tree line but it was nice and deep so I could just dig my boots in and kind of ride it down. Much like coming down a sand dune but the scree carries you further. We arrived at Rintoul Hut at 12pm and had lunch then I carried on ahead of the group. I was really glad I didn’t have to do that last part alone.
I had another big climb up to Purple Top which was above the tree line again and along some exposed ridgeline before gradually decending down to Tarn Hut. That section took me another four hours. The hut is in a nice little clearing next to a large tarn. Hayden was already here and another guy Rick who had done a massive day from Slaty Hut. Average day for him though. He left Slaty not long before us and arrived at Tarn Hut first. Super fit guy.
It is so peaceful and quiet here. I enjoyed standing at the lake this evening after dinner. Watching the mist roll in and bounce off the water. Now I am lying in my bunk bed as I write and will go to sleep once it gets dark. It is cold outside but nice and warm in here with three other people. The huts so far have been great. This one has five bunk beds and the mattresses are good.
Tomorrow I have some more climbing to do and another descent in the first half of the day to Mid Wairoa Hut then the track runs alongside the Wairoa River for 7kms to get to Top Wairoa Hut. Every day has been very different to the last.