What a monumental day!
After an easy stroll around the lake I reached the Breast Hill track. The sign at the start said: 4km, 4-5 hours. Uh oh.
After a steep switchback track, I met an impossibly steep ridge line, and the markers suggested that I climb it. I looked at the track, about a foot directly in front of my face, took a deep breath, and began to search for handholds.
I spent the next few hours repeating “Just look down at the track, don’t look anywhere else” to myself, every now and then finding somewhere flat enough to stop for a rest and a tentative look at the view. And when I did look out at the view, my breath was taken away every time. It was a stunning, sunny day, and I could see out over Lake Hawea, the mountains behind, and further on Lake Wanaka was shimmering in the distance.
After 5 hours, like the sign said, I reached Pakituhi Hut for lunch. The hut was nestled in a saddle, and it was a safe, flat, welcome spot to relax. I got going again fairly quickly as I knew I still needed to climb to the Breast Hill Summit, before descending the 12km to Stodys Hut.
The going was easier to the summit. The track still climbed, but I no longer needed my hands to help me along! I approached the summit just in time to witness a couple of southbound ears arrive and see the view for the first time. I had seen it the whole time I was climbing, but they had come from the other side of the range and this was their first time seeing Hawea and Wanaka. Their reaction made my day.
I spent about ten minutes at the summit soaking in the view and generally feeling pretty good about life.
The next 12km down to Stodys Hut were relatively easy going and although I was incredibly tired after the climb, I still had daylight left and was taking it at a leisurely pace.
Stodys Hut has a reputation amongst TAers for being the worst hut on the trail, and when I arrived I understood. Squeezing through the short open door frame, I landed on an earth floor scattered with discarded tins and newspapers. I looked around at the decaying antlers hanging over the fireplace and the Bill Clinton quotes scribbled on the ceiling. A quick peek into the hut book alerted me to the presence of a large plastic box that people had been storing their food in to keep it safe from the ‘angry’ family of rats holding residence in the hut.
I swiftly set my tent up I’m a clearing about 30m from the hut, and after dinner I placed all of my food and cooking equipment in the plastic box in the hut, and placed several large rocks on top of it. I figure if animals are going to try and get into my food, I’d rather they be doing it unsuccessfully in the hut instead of nibbling holes in my tent to get at the food inside.
I’m a little anxious camping at this hut alone as it has a distinctly spooky feel to it, but after such a demanding day I’m hoping to sleep well. We’ll see!