Set off at about 4.30 on Friday from Putara road end. Nice and sunny all the way up but the tops covered in clag. Very windy high up from what we could see plus dark and misty. Marta and I set off at same time as Chris and Ian but with much lighter bags. We did have sleeping bags but at 5kgs each we had no gas/billy etc.
Run up to Herupai let us know that it would be muddy. 1 hour 6 min to the hut. Brief stop to talk to two folks that wanted to make us a cuppa but we needed to get going. Wind picked up as we got higher. Got in to the mist and more used to walking whilst bending right, into the wind. It was a stance that i got very comfortable with over the weekend !
Narrow track but ok to follow as we got up to east peak. Then the fun started. Took a bearing to west peak and as the mist so thick, tried to follow the bearing but that got very steep, headed south and leatherwood ! lots of it, pulled west and dropped down into a stream, then another !! Lots of leatherwood to fight through and bruised knees as a result. Then stuck to the plan and went west and up, hit the cairn on the west peak spot on. Glad i relied on the compass and not my mind.
Very windy along the ridges , just getting slammed all the time. Track ok to follow but misty so no idea where we were ! A few hairy bits on the rocks as it was wet but as you could not see down it was hard to see if there was a big drop or not ! as the light went we got our torches out but just as we planned to use them, the sign for Dundas hut appeared. In our celebration on finding the sign we raced off downhill in the dark and lost the track…15 mins wandering about and we relocated the track and down to an empty hut. Just under 5 hours from the road end. Off the tops was great with no wind.
Chris and Ian arrived at the hut about 40 mins later and we settled down to a chatty hour or so. I was quite surprised that we were all so wet. I do remember the rain but not too much. There again the grass and bush was all damp.
Great night, 600gm sleeping bag but nice and warm and slept ok just took a while to drop off to sleep.
No rush to set off in morning, great sun rise looking east but we had to go west and back into the Mist and wind. Set off at 5.45 am and climbed slowly the 200 mtrs back to the ridge. Hit the wind again but no rain, followed the ridges closely as mist made the route finding slow. On top of Dundas took a bearing off but started going slightly too south not south east , very steep so back tracked and found the ridge we wanted then off again. Sun started to break through as we got just below Arete, then it warmed up and the wind dropped completely. Muddy path on the Te Araroa walkway and hot as we headed to Dac Bivi. Nice to get into the shade of the bush. Very humid with things damp yet warm sunshine.
Dac Biv was a nice short stop and water fill up. Only using two 500 ml bottles is great to save weight but not much good if empty and i forgot to keep filling them !
On to Nicholls hut and dropped down to the Hut, warm and sunny light cloud on the top of Crawford. Did not have enough water and food to get up Crawford so struggled. Hunger bonk. Had a couple of snickers and pushed on, was then fine to the top then felt great across to Andersons. Interesting that Marta is slower on the up hills and I was most of the trip but kept going at a good pace and we were usually fairly close most of the way. Only up to Mangahuka did we split.
Andresons Hut in the sun and only a light wind ( well compared to the last two years of being at thh hut in a gale). Fast walk as the clouds were heading in from the west and looked heavy with rain, plus wind picking up as we pushed on, sun disappeared and more clouds, then clouds got lower . Windy is an understatement for the top of Aokaparangi. Not quite blown over but at least we could see the track and did not get lost. Climb up and over the next few tops interesting with Marta slowing down. I waited occasionally but not often. Back in to the gale as we went up to Mangahuka hut thick mist but very strong winds. Hit the hut at 4 50pm. Marta came in 15 mins after. I had already eaten and was wearing my gear for going back out as it looked like we would get the heavy rain. Marta wanted to stop the night … it was not going to happen. There was a tramper in the hut, first person we had seen all day since Dundas so she could have stopped but then what to get out?. She had food and a sleeping bag but as we still had 4 hours day light left I wanted to go on. She’s a real trooper, either that or I was not listening, whatever it was after a few minutes we were back out the door, this time I followed and stayed behind Marta through to Kime. Very very windy, thick mist and rain as we did the ladder. Very muddy at this point as well slippery and wet. Hard work and still being hit from the right with the rain and wind. Muddy all the way to Kime deep in places but hard work.
Long slow up and down, never knowing were we were but kept going. Then up and up. On bridge peak had a major melt down. Totally knackered. Sat in the mud and eat a chocolate bar or two. Marta pushed ahead. Then up and off. Top at last , the gods decided we were not wet enough so dropped bucket loads of rain on us from the side and top. No confidence in cutting the corner to Kime so followed the poles then left and over hut mound. Finally saw the hut. !! Quite a few people in but Clare and Al were there with food, and tea and beer. Got in at 8.30 very wet, sore and tired.
Rain and gales all night. Had a great tea and sleep. Warm breakfast ! Then a slow start at 7.30 straight in to a deluge and Gale. Every rocky surface was flowing with water. Hector was thick Mist but then so was Kime ! down the muddy ridges after Hector was hard in the wind mud and rain hitting us from the right, nearly blowing my contact lenses out !
Renata turn off came and went in the mist. Legs going slow and feeling rather wet all over. Finally Alpha, funny but I do not recall a river flowing down this bit of hill. Couple of inches of water to slosh though but at least the wind was pushing us down for once. Got to the hut, two drowned rats but only 2 hours from Kime. Stayed a short while to soak the hut and get food inside us. Four trampers in the hut had taken 8.5 hours to walk up the marchant the previous day ! they asked we planned to stay in the hut, no way. Off and a slow tramp through Hells gap, Omega, Block 16..eventually. mud all the way and it was deep mud. Then the tree roots after the end of marchant, down to Dobsons hut site. Finally the clay track, bloody hard work , we both slipped and fell heavily then I did again for good measure. Then the sun appeared, and we warmed up. Last part down to YMCA we met Sharron Came who ran back down to the car with us. Great end to a great trip. Sitting in the sun in clean dry clothes.
Its a real mental effort to do the SK, keen to go back and do it again in better weather, really enjoyed it all. Couple of bad patches and need to learn the route better, given big sections that we had never been over before. Marta was a great companion for the trip, hard and steady but with that goal in mind.
Thanks to Clare and Al and Sharron. Good to do the first part and see Chris and Ian, thanks mates, sorry you ended with an alternate trip.