Nov 13 day 74 Slaty Hut to Mid Wairoa Hut 28 km 6:45-5:30
Not to be hyperbolic, but without doubt this morning’s hike was the most beautiful of the entire trip. The sun was bright, air frozen crystal with little wind. Darek and I left early, the gravel crunching beneath our feet and sprouting long thin ice crystals. It is easy to see how the soil, rocks and mountainsides heave if you just look down at pebbles suspended inches above the ground by tiny ice-crystal trees. We were both a little apprehensive. The two peaks of Mount Rintoul are famous for their difficulty. Lots of loose scree, some very narrow ledge passages near sheer drops. It is both technically and physically rigorous. It was very cold but I kept taking off my gloves to take pictures, though they are weak versions of what we are in, damn, it was just amazing. The early morning included a scramble up Old Man (which by the way is how I feel at the end of today), then a few km through scrub forest and a sharp climb, at first still in tree cover, then above tree line. By mid-morning we had summited Little Rintoul, but then the real work started, rounding the summit and dropping down a river of scree to work our way around a fractured ridge and then up to Rintoul proper (over 1700 meters). The rocks slid beneath our feet through the whole process, with Darek taking quite a tumble at one point. By late morning we were at the top and could see snow covered peaks in the distance at most points of the compass. It’s not fair to the rest of the day’s track to be compared to this morning. It was a lot more up and down, the down on very loose and skittery rocks. We got down to Rintoul hut, Darek wanted to rest there for a few hours, then go on to the next hut. I was hoping to get a little further, so I pushed on hard, making it to Mid Wairoa Hut after nearly 11 hours of very hard hiking. Took care of cooking and unpacking immediately. I’m writing this over a cup of tea, and my eyes will be closed on this day long before this day closes.