Day 88: Blue Lake Hut to Km2009
Distance today: 22.1km
Distance total: 2270.4km (official TA-km: 2009)
Time hiked: 10h 47min
Time total: 688h 57min
I spent most of yesterday evening talking to a school teacher and "super-tramper", who has already hiked hundreds of trails (with his 12 or so weeks vacation there's certainly enough time for this ;).
He tramped over Waiau Pass three times (after three unsuccessful attempts) and gave me valuable information about the route (that's the way these alpine tracks are called here). Moreover, point out the places, where people have come to grief along the way. Not sure if I really wanted to know this ;)
Very bad sleep tonight. Not only because of a Dutch guy snoring like a chainsaw but also because I'm quite excited. Big day today!
There's a plastic window in the roof of the hut, through which I can see the moon. Good sign!
I get with the first light. On the way to the long drop, I have a closer look at the weather: just some high clouds. Definitely a go.
I stuff my sleeping bag into my prepacked backpack and leave the hut by 5:20, southward, up to Rotopōhueroa, Lake Constance.
There, I follow I poled route, sidling on scree and through tussock above bluffs, which surround the lake. Very steep, very slow going. The scree is loose, the tussock slippery and obscuring the underlying soil.
Luckily, the weather is still fine by the time I reach the foot of Waiau Pass. "In a direct fashion" I climb up towards it. I'm struggling: 10 days of continuous up and down have taken their toll - the loose scree 1 step forward 2 steps back.
I use the several micro breaks to turn around and admire the amazing view of Rotopōhueroa, shining blue in the morning sun.
Clouds and windspeed increase with every meter I climb. The cirrus clouds move extremely fast. In fact I have never seen clouds move so fast. They literally get torn apart up there. After an appreciated flat bit, only a last short, steep scree field separates me from the pass. It's a quick climb and a bit more than 3 hours after I started, I stand on top 1870 meter high Waiau Pass - TA's second highest point.
The land- and skyscapes to the south are impressive. Snowy peaks with dark, fast moving clouds above. Quite spectacular! I'm rather amazed to see crickets up there as well. They surely are survival artists.
As the cloud ceiling is descending rapidly, I don't feel like sticking around for too long. I knew I'd have to cross snow fields but honestly, I wasn't expecting so many of them.
Probably more than 500 meter (mostly on the initial descent) are snow covered and I'm glad I have crossed quite a few in the past. So I know what to expect. More or less at least.
Ramming my Lunas into the hard snow gives me good grip and I actually get into a nice rhythm - like walking down a stair. Much faster and more pleasant than climbing over rocks ;)
The final snowfield I even slide down on my ass (controlled of course ;). Lots of fun!
Eventually I ford the Waiau River and follow it down towards Caroline Bivy. Especially the neverending rock fields are hard for my legs and need a lot of concentration. One wrong step and it would get very painful very fast. Looking back at Waiau Pass, now fully covered in clouds, makes me realize once more how quickly the weather can change.
Luckily, the valley widens significantly and the speed improves. I'm quite glad as it's starting to drizzle.
Please excuse my language but Caroline Creek Bivy, a 2 bunk hut, is a shithole.
I knew it would be cramped but it's dark, smelly and, worst of all, full of sandflies - inside and outside - as well. I'm not picky at all when it comes to places to sleep. Airports, train stations, all okay. But this... No thanks!
Good news for all future TA-hikers though: DOC will construct a new hut by the end of this summer.
The next hut is 29 kilometer away - out of reach. Despite the rain, I carry on and find a nice spot beside a "Blue Lake light". Still millions of sandflies but at least the view is nice.
Oh and BTW: 2000 official TA-km :)