Wow. Heavy rain for much of the night, continuing off and on in the morning. During a break in the clouds a glimpse of snow is seen, down to about 900m dusting the forest, a complete coating on the tops.

Guess after all this rain the Taramakau would be raging magnificently and I’d be shacked up at Kiwi Hut for a while. If I had any more food I’d be nestled in here for today, maybe the rain will stop as I eat my steaming porridge and pack up.

It was not to be, the rain continued all my way down the Poulter until lunch time. The plan today was not to retrace my steps over the Casey Saddle, the rather undulating terrain of my initial Andrews to Casey walk a few days ago. There is another route that turns this into a circuit and that sounds good to me. You wander basically on the flat down the Poulter and then you do all your climbing and descent in one hit. You get up higher, Binser Saddle tops out about 1085m rather than the lower, 777m, Casey Saddle but there’s nowhere near as much up-and-down.

There’s nothing like rain to keep your average tramper’s legs in motion. But I still stopped to look at a few stoat traps and find one has caught two rats fairly comprehensively, no escape from that.

There’s plenty of snow on the hills and my initial estimation of a lower level at 900m looks on the money.

When I’m eating my lunch near the turnoff I contemplate the options. Maybe just keep going down the valley to get to the road, adding another 10 or 12km to the day but avoiding any climbing. Or, go up and mess around in the snow.

It’s clear there will be snow on the saddle but I check the map out and see the track is entirely in the forest, that’s good, for some reason the ground under forest is warmer and snow doesn’t stick around as long. Also the sky is brightening and there is little wind, the rain has actually ceased. I’m pretty wet, but the trudge up the hill will warm me up, I’ve got my over-trou on, two layers of wool, vest, raincoat, two beanies, and gloves, so I’m reasonably equipped for some fun in the snow.

It’s good to do some climbing. After the initial crank up the steep river terraces, there’s a second stray piglet for the day, I usually never see them, the track itself is on a magnificent incline, well maintained, not so much traffic to be all tree roots, it’s as great walking as you could hope. Eventually it steepens, the snow starts in small patches, by the 1000m mark it’s about 50/50 snow and clear. Near the top of the saddle it flattens off and it’s fully snow for at least a kilometre, then it starts to snow for me, huge flakes.

I’m warm enough and there’s no reason to stop except to take the odd photo of this picturesque delight. It’s magnificent.

Over the top there’s one patch of clearing, snow 400 mm deep, all in the trees around, I’m glad I came up. The snow laden branches arch over the track, you push your way through, various trees dump snow around randomly, I get some down my neck, and then it’s all over and I’m going down again.

All in all, quite the most scenic way to end these 14 days. Oh, there’s more, at the bottom there’s road walk of about 3km to get to Andrew Shelter, it’s after 5pm, the wind is really up now, I’m striding but quite wet. Pity that shelter doesn’t have any heating, looks like I’m going to appear in Christchurch with my pack filled with wet, stinky clothes.

She’s turned out to be my biggest day walking in time but not quite the most energetic. That still belongs to the day cruising across the Waimak from Bealey Hut and then motoring up Sudden Valley. The Waimak sure won’t be dry currently.

Just this final cool night and then it’s total civilisation once again.

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