Richmond Alpine Route - Part 1
When we got up to get ready for our tramp into the Richmond Ranges the sun was shining. We had a quick breakfast and then Pete drove us to the Hacket Carpark. (Thanks!) From there we made our way to Hacket Hut, which would put us on the TA again.
Our goal for the day to hike up to the Starveall Hut, a section about 11km long with a 900m ascend. The sun was burning down on us pretty hot by the time we got to Hacket Hut and started our way up.
The track itself started out well cut and we progressed faster than expected. It was steep and tiring, but generally good to walk. The further we got up the mountain though, the harder it was to just walk through. We got to a section through a clearing with heaps of fallen trees. They weren't cleared away for the path but rather we had to climb over and around them. Where there were no fallen trees, young bushes grew, making it hard to see the path and then getting stuck and brushing against our packs when we pushed our way through. All the while the path was very steep, and we were getting the feeling that New Zealanders don't seem to zigzag their way up the mountains - instead the track just leads up the mountain in almost straight, steep lines.
We were thrilled when we finally moved through a little beech forest and then came to Starveall Hut. The Hut is beautifully located with a stunning view. But once we had had a little lunch, we thought it was still pretty early and our bodies able to do another short section. The time estimate to our next goal Slaty Hut was just 2 1/2 hours, so absolutely manageable.
So we set off again. The path to Slaty started through a gravel field and then moved further up the mountain, almost summiting Mt. Starveall. The going was slower now, because everything was rocky and it wasn't so much walking, but rather scrambling over the steep terrain. But we really enjoyed it. We love the mountains and the adventurous feeling of hiking up there. Also it made for a good change after everything had seen before. Also the views across the mountains and valleys were just plain beautiful.
After the ascend came a descend down towards Slaty Hut. It followed a ridge through a small forest and seemingly took forever. Maybe because the views hardly changed at all.
We were glad to finally reach the Hut - and especially that there was still space for us. Three people were already staying there, but the six bunk Hut had enough room so we could join.
Our second day in the Ranges was initially planned to only lead to the Old Man Hut. Both that section and the one following are in the Trail Notes estimated to take 5 hours and we didn't think we could make our poor untrained bodies go that far.
But we had started walking at 7am and progressed fast. We saw a bunch of goats just a few meters from our path. The trail lead in a semicircle across some ridges, climbing and falling every now and then. It involved a bit of scrambling around on rocks and we sometimes felt that it was a bit dangerous with the heavy packs pulling us off balance. Never really scary, but just enough to get you thinking.
The sun was shining brightly and even though we did use sunscreen and we got sunburned quite a bit.
And then we arrived at the junction to Old Man Hut, and it was not even quite 11am yet. We couldn't call it a day at that point, so we decided to continue.
The section summiting Little Rintoul and Mt. Rintoul is described as a very hard section in the Trail Notes, so we were a bit intimidated.
The climb up Little Rintoul wasn't too bad. First we ascended through yet another beech forest, then the trail led through scree. The rocks were too big to just walk across, so it was more a skipping from rock to rock in some places, but the time flew by and pretty soon we were at the top. The view around was amazing, but it was so windy up there that we didn't take the time for a break. A look at Little Rintoul's bigger brother showed us that we still had quite some work to do. But before we could climb up there, we had to get down from Little Rintoul. And that proved pretty tricky.
The route led steeply through loose gravel and at some points the descent was pretty scary. The rocks were to big to just easily slide down through them, but too loose to be able to just walk down. With a lot of help from our trekking poles we slowly made our way down. But man, that section was hard on our knees!
As soon as we had gotten down, it was time to climb up the next mountain and it did made us wonder why we couldn't just have walked along the ridge. But after the tricky descent down from Little Rintoul we were glad to finally walk up again.
We were now starting to get just a bit tired, so this climb was a bit harder than the first one. But we were so excited once we made it up to the summit. The only one between us and a bunk in the next hut was another 600m descent. This one fortunately through more scree, but finer so we could just basically slide step down through the loose gravel. That was a lot faster and a lot more fun than getting down from Little Rintoul. We did have a few minor falls on our butts though and some scratches and bruises now tell of our adventures.
Since the day before had been demanding both physically and mentally, we decided to take it slow after that big section. So we only walked one Hut this time, moving from Rintoul Hut to Tarn Hut. Maybe it was because we knew we wouldn't have to go as far, maybe we were really that tired - we felt that we were done with the day once we arrived. Tim's shoes also seem to be tired. We saw the first signs of wear and tear with small rips showing up in the outer fabric - not so cool since the shoes were basically new before we started.
The weather had changed from sunny the day before to being overcast. That was okay for a change. It also led to some crazy play of nature with rising fog in the evening at Tarn Hut. There's a small lake right by the hut and that might have been another reason, but it was just a magical view when the fog slowly drifted in.