Day 7: Birchwood to Lower Wairaki Hut

Sun 29 January 2017

  • Km today: 28
  • Total Km: 187

Today I would commence on the Takitimu Track which crosses the range of the same name. I was up and gone from the hut by 0800 as I knew it would be a long day. The trail for the most part of the day would be across iconic Mount Linton station. At over 13,300 hectares it is one of the largest privately owned stations in the country and it provides a thoroughfare for the TA – thank you Mt Linton! The mornings walk was across grass paddocks and crops then continued along the wide raceways which runs through the station and allows for easy stock movement. I could hear dogs working nearby but otherwise I was on my own to walk along and read the paddock name plates which were fixed to the gates. There was a steep hill track to climb and my arrival at the top coincided with a vehicle. Just my luck, why couldn’t we have met at the bottom of the hill and I would have asked for a lift up. I waved and smiled anyway.

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I passed two SOBO’s along the farm road and even came across a motor grader tending to the road – you know it’s a big station when they grader the road. The driver’s chocolate lab came bounding over for a chest rub. Then a little later I caught up with Julian, the barefooted guy I met yesterday. He stopped for a break which I think was his way of saying that he wanted to be alone. Which was fine with me. We all go at our own pace and it can be easier not to compromise on how you approach the pace of the trail by going it alone. The company can be refreshing but can also be a distraction. It reminded me of Ruapehu when you would say “sure I will stay on the beginner slope as you learn to ski” which would last about an hour before you would take off to the higher slopes and leave the beginner to it. The track descended to the Telford burn (small river) where I filled the water bottles. There was a swingbridge to cross then 3km following the burn to a river crossing. The water was a bit high to cross without getting the boots full of water, so I took them off and waded across. I still didn’t want to get my boots wet just yet. I know it’s coming though. A pleasant walk along the grass paddock was revealing the beauty of the Takitimu range to the fore.

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It was 1400 when I arrived at the Telford camp-site. Essentially it is a paddock with a portaloo. As it was early in the day I decided to push on to the next hut. The weather seemed in my favour as I had heard that the top ridge was exposed and rocky. The sun was out and there was a steady breeze so it would be good conditions for the climb. And climb it was. There was only the TA marker poles to follow up the mountain and no defined trail in the grass to follow, presumably as everyone makes their own path up or down. I kept looking up and thinking “I hope I aren’t going there” then realising yes I most definitely was heading there, further and further was the haul up, it was a vertical climb of 600. At times I was thankful of the breeze that kept me from getting too hot but mostly I cursed the TA for taking me here… All bad things come to an end though and I felt a massive sense of relief and satisfaction when I got to the top. Well not quite the top as there was still another ridge to scale but phew this was remarkable already. The view was awesome. The next climb was also challenging but this was because of the ground. The vegetation had become more alpine, tough and prickly plus there had been cattle way up here and their hooves had made muddy indentations in the terrain. The final climb to the summit was up rock, the wind was blowing vigorously and the ground on either side fell precipitously for half a kilometre. I crawled up the last few metres hanging onto the roots and vegetation as my life depended on it. Once at the top the view was spectacular and my confidence flooded back.

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The track then descended through beech forest for 4km, it was quite steep which made the going slow. Beech forest has a lot of roots that love to trip over young players. Finally at 1900 I arrived at the Lower Wairaki hut. There was no one else there so I set about chopping wood for the fire and getting myself settled in. It doesn’t get dark until after 2130 so there was still plenty of daylight. About an hour later four SOBO’s arrived. They had completed 30km from the Princhester hut in a day. I wouldn’t realise how remarkable this was until days later.

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2 thoughts on “Day 7: Birchwood to Lower Wairaki Hut

  1. Wendy Hopkinson says:

    Mark we are loving your posts – keep them coming. And your selfie skills are impressive! Imagine in another 5 months time! So proud of you xxxx

    Like

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