1°C when I woke and for some reason, maybe yesterday’s efforts lugging a 14 days worth of food filled pack up the hill, I stayed snug in my sleeping bag for awhile longer. I eventually roused myself at 5°, somewhere I’d read it was four hours to the next hut, in the end it turned out to be much less than that in walking time, but when the day is similarly brilliant blue sky like yesterday’s there didn’t seem much hurry.

Historically I haven’t had many fine clear days in the mountains in spring, better make the most of it, and for that at least for me it means hanging around up on the saddle for an hour or two. There were a few patches of icy snow to negotiate on the south side of the past but overall it wasn’t too concerning.

Then later, wandering down the easy benched track alongside Hamilton Creek, well maintained, what’s the hurry, let’s try sitting in the sun and listening to the birds. The bellbird is fairly obvious, the twerps and chitterings of smaller specimens a little harder to discern, certainly grey warblers in the mix, noted hopping up the trees. I listen to kea in close proximity, you sense something, or the bird itself, is being murdered with all that shrieking, it sure can make quite the racket.

Cass Saddle and Hamilton Huts are poles apart. Cass, windowless, grubby, small firebox, the bunks sandwiched claustrophobically in three levels, The internal, unnecessary door, skull cracking at three quarter height. Hamilton is bright and airy, a massive stone fireplace central, with a large firebox installed, tables, benches, ie, reasonable spots to sit, probably some installation, a sink with a tap, complete with flowing water, ie, quite the difference.

One thing remains the same, lack of company, lucky I’m still happy enough with my own.

I should say no human company because of the local kea has joined me, clearly that was not today’s victim of the crime. The kea is bigger than I remember, maybe puffed up due to cold, not quite chicken sized, dull forest green in colour, I know there’s some orange under the wings, but the most identifiable feature is a huge curving beak. She’s pigeon toeing her way along the veranda in abrupt hops, twisting, and running that beak along the timber, almost like sharpening a sickle, eyes firmly gazing at the hooded creature, ie, me, in the hut interior.

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