The choice of route was a problem, as to do a round trip meant we would miss the 7pm ferry and turn the trip into FE (Flipping Exhausting). Wisely we decided to visit Rintoul and come back over Old Man tops.
The ferry was late and the road end not the best. Many thanks to Megan for driving us there. It then started snowing quite thickly and so it was a charge down to Lake Chalice. We took 20 minutes and thankfully no one was there. This meant we could share the hut with the medium group with no drama (2 on mattresses on the floor). It was 2am!
We didn’t make a very early start but we were out of the hut by 9am. We followed round Lake Chalice down the pleasant Goulter valley until the turn off for Old Man Hut. We sidled the river and then headed up the ridge to Old Man Hut for lunch. We were doing well on the timing.
Leaving a fond welcome message in the hut book for the mediums we headed up the ridge. The lack of sleep started to take its toll and the pace dropped a bit. Between the false summit and Mt Rintoul there is a gnarly ridge with a 250m drop. This is best described as interesting in normal conditions but a few inches of snow made it far more slippery.
We carefully drooped down and then headed up the easier slopes to Mt Rintoul. The drop from here to the hut lacked the joyous scree of my last visit but the route was still fast so we arrived at 5pm.
A fellow called Jim was also wandering through; he was glad of our company but more importantly that we had spare matches. A good brew and dinner put a glow on our faces which was good because the southerly meant it was getting cold outside. We did have some sparklers but we were all asleep before dark so were no use.
The next day was an early rise at 5am; we realized that to make the van at 3pm it was going to be another long day. We retraced our steps and with the snow being better in the reverse direction, we made it back 3 minutes earlier than the agreed time. We did contemplate the Old Man route but felt it would be too icy. Talking to the other group it probably would have been better.
We did notice an old route up Mt Patriarch from Mid Goulter Hut: sometime we’ll make a proper round trip of it!