Man. Back here again, this huge barn of a hut, but under different circumstances.

The day was really defined by the drizzle, steady solid drizzle, not the biggest drops of rain but right from the start it was the two beanies and the usual two wool layers, Polartec vest and my Gore-Tex coat, hood definitely up.

The day started with a 950m climb, the first section in the forest, on the fully benched but relatively steeply inclined track. Then you pop out on successive razorback-style ridges, ie, quite narrow, timber steps aplenty.

I could see a couple going into the Hanging Valley Shelter, the highest point on the track at around 1400m, and had a major surprise when I found I was the seventh body huddling closely together inside, all scoffing a quick bite.

By the time I emerged the wind was getting up, the drizzle persistent, wind chill a major factor. Unbelievably different from wading through the knee deep snow of three weeks ago, then it was also windy but basically dry, today was a day of some pace on the track, not much point in mucking around, photos at a minimum, no point soaking the camera.

I’d put the day in the fully miserable basket, so it was a surprise to cross paths with a couple who had just left Luxmore Hut half an hour previously. The drizzle was solid, the wind fair howling, I was looking forward to escape from these conditions, and I met a couple striding out towards Iris Burn Hut, around five hours trudge away. They seemed particularly badly dressed for the occasion. The bloke, in the lead, had a cheap jacket without a hood and no beanie or gloves, his female partner similarly attired but with a plastic bag style poncho, perhaps acquired from the $2 shop, already looking worse for wear, won’t be long before it is shredded, her face grim, teeth clenched, no response to my cheery greeting. They had told the hut warden that they were returning to Te Anau but were not heading in that direction. It’s a major surprise that more people don’t die out there in the mountains of New Zealand.

As usual on this track, seven happy trampers last night, a different seven tonight. It’s been a United Nations of nationalities: the Israelis, French, Germans, Dutch, English, more Germans, an Austrian and one solitary kiwi, ie, myself. For some reason there was a major preponderance of engineers up here for the night, all of the different specialisations, chemical, electrical, civil, and a gal who dealt with the flow of water in pipes.

Friendly folk, full of enthusiasm for this lovely country, basically just cheery types, kinda nice to share a hut two nights in a row with these enthusiastic and motivated trampers.

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