Day 20: Lake Hawea to Pakituhi Hut

Woke up this morning dreading what stood before me. A nearly 1km climb. That’s not climbing for 1km. No. I’m 1km higher in elevation than when I started this morning.

Off right at 7am to try to beat the sun as much as we could. The climb is fully exposed with zero shade and zero water. You have to haul it all up the hill with you. Plenty of water at the hut, according to the southbounders we’d talked to, but none along the way. A flat pleasant walk along a bike trail and a place that would make an excellent camp site if it weren’t for the no camping signs, and we were at the bottom of our climb. Sadly, we thought we’d be able to refill bottles directly at the bottom so we skipped filling up before we ascended to the road that runs along the east side of the lake. Gain-Marco had brought plenty with him but I was expecting to fill up from the lake.

Fortunately, a couple of sobos arrived just then, some folks I’d found on Instagram, but hadn’t talked to. They gave me what they had left of their water which I figured should be enough. Then I got rid of one last bit of excess weight and started the climb.

In the text there it talks about a saddle at the 400m climbed mark. That was going to be a checkpoint for me. I reached it fairly quickly actually, a little over an hour I think. I was flying. Then the hill got steeper. I am actually starting to like the really steep stuff. At least on days where I’m climbing for a long time. The steeper the trail the faster I climb. And for some reason the steeper the trail it seems like the longer I can go without stopping. Maybe because I’m going slower so I have better pacing? Maybe it’s all in my head? I dunno. I like steep though.

On the way up the views kept getting better and better. There were also lots of little places to stop. I’d scramble up a steep part and suddenly be on top of a rock with a great view. Good place to rest for a minute before moving on.

I met a bunch of sobos on the way up. This pair of ladies suggested that waking up “at the ass crack of dawn” to finish the climb to the top of Breast Hill and watch the sunrise was totally worth it. They’d stayed at the hut, so they actually backtracked up the hill just to do this. I imagine they left their packs at the hut though. I would have.

Finally I arrived at the turn to the hut. One last selfie before I lose my view of the lake. The hut is about 200m off the trail and down on the back side of the ridge, so no views sadly. But it’s a very nice hut.

The next hut says 3-4 hours away. I hadn’t planned on going there today, considering I’d figured I’d take way longer than I did to get here. I arrived just after noon, in time to meet Gina-Marco one last time before he went to Stody’s Hut. That hut is pretty old, and very small. I ate some lunch and pondered whether I wanted to continue on or stay here. I’ve mostly decided I’m staying here. But there’s a non-zero chance I may finish the climb to the top later this afternoon and camp up there for the night. No sand flies, no rain, I probably wouldn’t even pitch my tent. Just sleep under the stars.

Not sure if I’ll do that though. For now I’m going to relax in the hut and take that rest day I didn’t take while I was in Wanaka.

Which reminds me. I’m going to be on the lookout for a good hut to stop and have a zero day in. Preferably one that isn’t forced upon me due to weather, because I’d like the hut to clear out during the day and get a different group of people in it. It won’t happen on this stretch. There’s only one decent but left here, Top Timaru hut and I don’t think I’m quite ready for a zero day in the woods just yet. Maybe after Tekapo.

Fast forward. Bed time. The hut is overbooked by 2 people but the conversation has been great. I’ve got my alarm set early but not ass crack of dawn. Tomorrow is going to be a big day trying to get to Top Timaru hut, but I feel confident I can do it if I just persevere. And if I don’t make it there I can find a camp spot along the way. It’ll be fine.

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