Dec 8 day 99 free camp to Lake Hawae Village 6:45-4:00 28 km
So I pitched my tent on what looked to be a great free camp site, and it was except the ground was not as level as I thought, so my night was a good bit of sliding from one side to the other of my tent–not the best night of sleep in preparation for an uncertain day of hiking. I woke fairly early to a very cold morning– layered up with all my warm clothes (and at some point in the day lost my Icebreaker beanie hat that I loved so much–very disturbing). This day did not mess around. Immediately I was climbing very steep and not well formed trails, and it did not stop all morning. Scree that moved to a touch, lots of downed trees across very steep trails, then a few gratuitous river crossings (very cold water). Finished out by an incredibly steep climb out of the river valley up to the Breast Hill plateau (yeah, breast hill!). The late morning , early afternoon was more civilized, following a farm track up above the bush line for some incredible views of the lakes and the snow covered southern alps. The descent off the plateau was tough, first along a long ridge line with narrow rocky paths, then a quick descent to the lakefront and a long dusty walk to Hawae Village, which is more a collection of houses near the lake than a town. I did get the last backpackers bunk at the hotel and had a great meal at the unforgettable Sailz restaurant, then settled in to rest from what was a difficult few days hiking. Glad to be in another lake valley; will make the trek over to Wanaka tomorrow.