Oct 30 day 60 Waiopehu Hut to Nichols Hut 17 km 7:30-4:00
A hard but beautiful hiking day, humbling too. Woke to clear skies but high winds and low temperatures. The decks outside the hut were iced up. Still, it was too beautiful not to hike, so soon I was climbing the first of dozens of peaks. Encountered most high terrain trails– plenty of mud and root hiking , scrambling over and up rocks, stumbling and sliding down gravel scree or just slick mud. It was a classic ridge hike, hard up to a 1400 meter peak with a dusting of snow over it, then down one of those endless ridges, taking me up on tundra with tiny flowers under foot and cold winds blowing, then into indescribably old, twisted forests where the trees, stumps, rocks, were all blanketed in thick green moss. It was as if you could hear it breathing. I had hoped to make it to the last hut which would have been about 25 km, but it was impossible to make good time on a trail that seemed to change every 100 meters. There was a lot of very steep slippery descending, the part of hiking where I am slowest. Still, Nichols hut was snug and had a great view. Although there was really no proper wood, I did build a fire in the wood stove to take off the chill and get my socks dried off. One disappointment is that I won’t be off the mountains in time to watch the World Cup rugby match Sunday morning. I’ll have to find a replay of it later that day when I get back to civilization.