Half a Southern Crossing

The trip was originally scheduled for October 2019 but postponed due to poor weather. Tash was no longer able to lead the trip so I took over and set a new date, inheriting a group of people who had been wanting to do this trip for a long time.

The week before I had been watching the weather forecast. It was not looking good. Strong wind was predicted and some rain. It was the wind I was worried about. If it was gale force, and it looked like it would be, we would not be able to go along the tops.

Friday at work I sat checking the weather. It showed some minor improvement, but not enough to get too hopeful. I left work at 4:30 pm and walked along the waterfront through horizontal rain to the train station. It was a northerly, quite warm, and I was soon sweating in my coat.

My group of five shared a van with Erik’s hardcore MF group of three who were planning on doing the Maungahuka loop.

It was about 8 pm and just on dusk as we got to the car park and piled out to start walking. The evening was warm and very humid. The first section of the track is open, traversing grassy fields and the low angle of the sun cast a deep golden light through the softly gathering clouds.

And then we were into the trees and it was time to get out our headtorches. The track was well graded and steadily uphill. I would have liked to pause a moment to rest, but with the rest of the party bounding with such energy behind me I knuckled down and pushed on. After about an hour the track flattened off a bit as we got into more mature bush. Instead of unrelentingly up there was a bit of up and down and steeper sections and little scrambly bits. By this time it had started to rain; a relief after the intense humidity. It wasn’t too heavy and the evening was still warm so we just continued on without getting out our jackets. In the gleam of my torchlight I could see small wētā jumping out of the way. With the bush dripping with rain and mist reflecting my torchlight, limiting visibility to a couple of metres, it was all quite magical.

We arrived at Field Hut at around 10:30 pm, having walked for 2 hours 10 mins. There were five pairs of boots outside and no lights on, so we snuck in quietly and settled down for the night.

Field Hut
Field Hut

The next day was grey and rainy. We took our time getting up and having breakfast. At about 10:40 am we thought we would set out and take a look at what the weather was like on the tops. The rain had eased but it was still very misty. We didn’t see a thing on the way up. Well, not in the way of a view. We did see an enormous worm, sadly drowned.

Instead of going down to Penn Creek Hut (as had been our alternate plan), the group were keen to continue along the ridge and see what it was like and if the weather would get any better later in the day. We went to Kime Hut and had a late lunch.

Huw and Jamie enjoying the view
Huw and Jamie enjoying the view

Phoebe was delighted to be able to prove that some DOC mattresses do, in fact, have a hard and a soft side. And if you don’t believe the photographic proof below you’ll just have to go to Kime to see for yourself.

Soft side of mattress
Soft side of mattress

The weather, however, was not looking any better. On the parts of the ridge that were exposed, the wind was very strong and quite cold. It would have been miserable to continue on to Alpha Hut. It was also getting a bit late in the day for this. We turned around and headed back to Field Hut.

Heading back to Field Hut
Heading back to Field Hut

As we got lower, the mist began to clear and we got glimpses of view. By the time we got back to Field it was sunny.

Table Top
Table Top

As we were relaxing in the sun some mountain runners (including Sumudu) came by, having started that morning from Kaitoke. This made us feel slightly pathetic, but then, we were carrying heavy packs. We had a relaxing evening eating and playing cards. Jamie had brought a special pack of cards with little top tips for the outdoors on them. Many of the suggestions were either obvious or ridiculous and I was in hysterics as I read them for the group’s amusement.

After a compulsory sleep-in the next morning, we walked back up to the tops to have a look and take some photos. It was clearer than the day before and we got some good views. The wind was still cold however, and we didn’t stay all that long. After some lunch back at the hut we wandered down the track to the carpark. The bush was very beautiful and it was nice to see it in the daylight.

We got out to the end of the track about 3 pm. We knew we would have a few hours to wait for Erik’s group (who had the keys to the van), so settled ourselves on the grass in the sunshine. At first, we were content to just lie about. Some of the group went for a swim.

Te Reo Bananagrams
Te Reo Bananagrams

Relaxing in the sun at Otaki Forks
Relaxing in the sun at Otaki Forks

Then 5 pm came and went, then 6 pm, then 7 pm. We were staring to get a bit concerned. Where was Erik’s group? Were they stuck somewhere? Would they make it out this evening at all? We were now getting cold and hungry. We moved to the little information shelter and pooled what leftover food we had. It was more than I had expected. We turned up 300 g of pasta and 300 g of fish (of different flavours) between the five of us. We also had crackers and various snacks. Not much for a meal, but certainly better than nothing. We were just gobbling it when they showed up. It was about 8 pm. Turns out they had not been able to leave Maungahuka Hut until 1 pm. The wind had just been too strong. We were very pleased to see them.

All up, a fun trip, and the Crossing awaits us for another day.

Stats provided by Meredith

Otaki Forks to Field Hut – 2 h 10 m, 6.5 km, 744 m total climb

Return trip to Kime Hut – 3 h 58 m, 10.0 km, 627 m total climb

Field Hut to Otaki Forks – 2 h 01 m, 6.3 km, 1 m total climb.

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