Day 65 Staying put at Top Wairoa Hut

Richmond Alpine Flowers and a reflection

15 Dec, low fog

Its 4:40am, I peak out the window of my Top Wairoa Hut bunk bed. I’m checking on the visibility that worsened late yesterday, this may prevent an alpine crossing today. Rain was predicted in the long term forecast, information that is way out of date due to lack of internet access.

Rain causes rivers to rise quickly but also impacts on visibility and/or wind gusts on the ridges.

I have passed the sidling river walk hurdle for now. This next challenge is altitude from 900m to 1695m Mt Ellis. Includes ‘open spaces with marker poles a fair distance apart and easily seen on a clear day ‘. Getting lost up there won’t be good. So I’ll stay put for now and check conditions throughout the day, I’m probably stuck here for 24 hours.

Its now 7:30 the fire is roaring and the billy has boiled. Wet clothes are hung up to dry but I need more wood and go down the 200m bank to the raging river for water. Tea is out but I still have 4 days food and 3 days left to walk.

I’m not expecting anyone to be moving too far on the Richmond Range today. There are two women travelling behind me and would be walking the rivers today. That is unlikely due to the rain and volume of water screaming down the braided river banks.

There’s no internet service at Top Wairoa Hut. Generally on the tops there may be a narrow internet band that blinks in for a brief time only. Battery, I have enough for one more phone charge and need to save that for navigation.

It is cold and dark in the hut even though the fire is lit and now embers. I left my candle at Mid Wairoa Hut but have my head torch still. Cooking fuel, I should have enough for the 3 nights needed.

Its now 9:00 and the hills are totally in mist, I made the right decision to wait this out. The rain at the hut is more mist that rain. No wind and fluctuates from clear to being in the clouds constantly.

I have just walked up to the first orange marker and checked out the water levels. The river is very full and fast, the track is collecting water and creating a stream for itself.

Reflection: I’ve had all day to think about lack of energy and realise this began in Wellington. I felt lethargic, am not hungry but physically tired. Technical tramping is beyond my capability, it takes me forever to climb the hills and walk up all day. Half days would suit better 🥴

These challenges are physically, mentally and emotionally challenging and are constant.

Falling on the hard rock is a regular thing affecting my bones. High drama for the hips and knees today as they begin to squeek. I’m making plans to rest and restore making changes to my diet by including more protein and repair vitamins. How do you maintain vibrancy and health day after day? Work in progress.

Its 11:30 and I have had a NOBO visitor ie North Bound, going the opposite way to me. Geoff brought firewood and presented wet and soaked through. We discussed the river crossings and exchanged knowledge of weather and terrain. Geoff also passed messages on from Marty and Josh before he pressed on in the knowledge the rivers are at the start rather at the end of his walk.

Geoff confirmed I made the right decision. The top ridge was cold, high winds with poor visibility. The track was easy to follow due to the well trodden paths by previous walkers AND don’t expect major rock face challenges.

Top Wairoa long drop
Even more clearing……

Reflection: I have lit fires and tended them in huts, forded impassible rivers and scampered across rock faces at altitude. I’ve made a range of poor decisions but mostly they have been measured and considered. I have made it each day to a solid shelter and found safe water along the way.

The beauty of landscape has been present everyday, flowers that survive these harsh conditions are a reminder of how simple life is.

Standing on the summits of the Richmond Range I have earned the joy that these open spaces provide in their beauty and longevity.

Alpine flowers across the Richmond Range.

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