Mount Richmond, 1760m, is the objective.

Ambitious, sure. Over ambitious, I guess I’ll find out.

My earlier attempt was as a sixteen year old in my last year at school, Easter by my recollection, the weather fairly grim, there’s a lengthy exposed stretch undulating around the 1400 to 1600m mark, cliffs to the west, no weather protection to the wet nor’westers smashing in, visibility low, five enthusiasts didn’t see much more than the next snow poles on the route. After the equinox there wasn’t much in the way of daylight.

There’s a tendency as you age to believe you can do more or less what you once did, or even more. That might be possible if you are more organised, or you think smarter, but physically, I guess you aren’t as resilient.

Despite my recent training, ie, lugging a pack for weeks around Fiordland, heavy loads aboard, today seemed quite the effort. And that was despite only carrying half the food compered with those 15 day trips. This time it’s not even a standard week’s supply. Maybe it was the full hour walking on Nelson’s hard pavements accessing the start of the track, together with the 440m sharply inclined fire track to Cummins Spur where you meet the Dun Mountain Trail, I’ve taken that shortcut to avoid the easy, but lengthy meanderings of the old tramline.

There’s the realisation that the weather forecast indicates that tomorrow will not be a great day to do the huge walk up to the Mount Fell Hut, it’s nominally from 150m altitude at Middy Hut on the Pelorus River to around 1600m up Mount Fell. Oh, looking over there from the excellent vantage point at the rocks of the actual locality The Rocks I see there’s plenty of big undulations up there to add somewhat to the elevation gain. Humm, you can really appraise the full nine hour extent of that section of the walk. The Rocks vantage has quite the view.

The following days will be fine and clear, better to wait out a day, a major proportion of the route is along above the tree line, fully exposed to the weather, the wind. And I’m in no particular hurry to get back for anything, might as well choose the better experience, if I can indeed trust the forecast. I have consulted Metvuw.co.nz, the eight day out forecast, that tends to predict rainfall with some accuracy.

I’ve known of tomorrow’s poor prospects for a few days but I’m leaving on a Sunday because the Dun Mountain Walkway, to give it the correct name, has been closed during the working week to allow a start on the construction of a predator-proof fence around the Waimarama Reserve. The trail is only officially open at the weekends, or after 5pm. That situation is going to last for the entire summer, until March, and follows the popular track being closed for six months following a huge pre-Easter storm this year, while the council workers cleared numerous windfalls.

The Dun Mountain Trail is a fairly well used track, mountain bikers in particular, but also a few like me, I guess it’s easy just to say Road Closed, well, potential rant over.

Anyway, for all these reasons, plus running out of potential daylight, I thought I would only continue on to Middy Hut if it was before 5pm when I arrived at Rocks Hut. There’s about a two hour drop down to the Pelorus River involved.

It wasn’t, ie, now after 5pm, I’m staying.

I realise that Rocks wasn’t such a bad spot to spend another night. I’ve been here three times now in the last 18 months, the previous occasions as I’ve attempted the full walk to St Arnaud, one unsuccessful as the soles of my boots fell off, the other so successful I continued on to the Lewis Pass.

And, of course, I was resident numerous times in my youth, maybe 15 or so nights, but that was the old Tramping Club Hut: sloping dirt floor, open fire, no windows of consequence, bush timber structural members, chain mesh bunks, although they did have lumpy, smoke infused kapok mattresses. Those were the days before the fireproof plastic covers were mandatory.

I almost feel like I’ve come home.

Day 2 | Middy Hut, Mt Richmond Forest Park →