It started raining large and heavy drops. I looked up and saw the cloud moving fast across the Tararua tops. 90kph winds — that’s what was forecast. Drops fell on my face. They would be stinging rain-bullets up there.
I paused for a moment, below the bush-line, walking toward Kime Hut. Rain bullets. Low visibility. Snow from the last dump. Approaching dark. I asked myself if it was worth pushing myself to get up there. Was there a sufficient margin of safety?
Probably not. A night at Field Hut it is, I decided as I breathed deeply. Time to take it easy and enjoy. There was no hurry and no need to stress about making it along a ridge that has claimed more than a few lives. I plodded on and enjoyed the plastic-pelting of the rain on my new jacket.
But I still wanted to get up to Kime Hut. I woke up early Saturday morning and marched up the track. It wasn’t far above Field Hut that I first encountered the rain-soaked snow and sunk in up to my waist. It was hard going, but I had company — a guy from the Czech Republic. Talking was pointless, as the wind carried our voices faster than we could talk.
We got to Kime, it was freezing, and the wind was strengthening moment to moment. I pulled on my warm Prothermals, pulled out my cooker, and prepared a quick but delicious Radix meal. I was quickly warmed, but was too worried to enjoy it.
I became increasingly concerned by the deteriorating weather. My Czech mate didn’t quite have the right gear and I did not want to get caught out. I was halfway through my meal when I decided we shouldn’t wait any longer. He could see it too. I pulled on my my wet-weather gear, tucked my shirt into my pants and dropped my half-eaten meal (in its packet) down my shirt. I could eat it later and at least it was warm.
The wind was crazy: blowing, buffeting and cold. I was ok, but I was worried about the other guy. It was in the shelter of Mt Dennan, behind some rocks, that we were finally able to stop and take stock. I pulled out my meal, still warm. I still had five hours to go.
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