Saturday, April 26, 2014

To The Top. And Out.

We were excited to find that Cyclone Lusi had already blown through Nelson Lakes-- after our shuttle dropped us off,  we quickly resupplied and then headed for the day's hike, along the panoramic Robert Ridge track to Angelus Hut. After an easy hike along Lake Rotoiti, we thankfully hitched a ride up five kilometers up the road to the trailhead. From there it was all up--- here's looking back on the lake and St Arnaud:

A nice clear day for the hike. 

But things started to get a little more ominous as we approached the shelter at the start of the ridge.

From near the top, I got a nice panorama of the area,

and then BAM. That was it. It was don-your-rain-gear time.

It was where-the-heck-is-the-trail time. It was 60-mph-wind-gust time.

Above, the wind generously holds Jared up. We finally stumbled into the Angelus Hut a few hours later-- we almost literally stumbled into it in fact, since visibility was about 10 feet at the point. 

Luckily Angelus Hut was well-appointed with a friendly ranger, a wood stove, a drying rack, and a friendly Canadian named David. We even had it all to ourselves since the other thirteen people booked for the night (wisely perhaps?) decided not hike in.

Just as I settled into my book, Jared asked if I wanted to play cards, mainly because I mentioned that my deck of cards was the only thing in my backpack that I hadn't used at all. A bit annoyed, I agreed to a game, so Jared proceeded to teach the Davids cribbage; and boy did we play. Cribbage is great for dreary rainy days (and we definitely had one of those), so we got five or six games in. 

Jared and I had planned to spend the entire next day day-hiking, and David joined us since he didn't have to hike out till the afternoon. It was maybe the best day of hiking on the trip. We hiked up and around the bowl that surrounds Angelus Hut and Lake. The views got pretty awesome pretty quick-- here's looking back down on Angelus Hut:

And here's looking back along Roberts Ridge (the previous day's hike), which was entirely obscured the day before:

I'm pretty sure this ridge was created for awesome photos. Here's David surveying his domain:

This is the panorama I grabbed from one of the vistas-- note David (in green) and Jared (in black) climbing into the center of the picture.

From there, we continued working our way along the knife-edge ridge.

Around 1, David had to turn back toward the hut to the hike out, while Jared and I continued our climb toward Mt Angelus, the highest point on our trip, at 6,808 feet (a little comically low in elevation...). It was a great scramble up to the top.

The lake in the center left, is Angelus Hut (you can maybe just make out the hut there...). Jared took a moment to celebrate out accomplishment:

Of course, I couldn't resist either.

Some thunderish-looking clouds began rolling in, so we promptly descended. See tiny Jared in the photo below for scale looking back up toward the peak.

The next morning we said goodbye to Angelus Hut, dropping nearly 3,000 feet down Cascade Canyon. We were pretty convinced that there couldn't possibly be a trail down...

But drop we did, and we soon found ourselves at the 12-bunk Coldwater Hut on the shore of Lake Rotoiti, where we planned to spend the night.

Note the black swans cruising by the end of the pier-- judging by the log, they're quite well-known residents of the area. Coldwater was basically full, so we decided to trudge 20-minutes to Lakehead Hut on the other shore. It was a good choice-- Lakehead Hut was large, new, and basically empty:

Since it was our last night in the wilderness, we decided it was now or never for fishing. So, after arriving around 2, we spent the next four or five hours fishing. No luck (surprise!), but lots of good fishing shots.

Here's the man himself. He means business.

Here's his quasi-bored photographer enjoying the scenery:

And here's the man, five fish-less hours later. At least it was a nice sunset.

We even fished most of the next morning with no luck (seriously-- I give up forever). 

That afternoon we hiked back to St Arnaud where it was clean laundry, pizza, and beer time. Check. The next morning I had an interview arranged at 6 AM (!!!), so I was actually a little relieved to find it was cancelled, but also a little annoyed, since I had hiked out just for the interview. Luckily, they made it up to me by offering me a job as a Data Analyst at the Global Footprint Network. Spoiler Alert.

We shuttled back to Nelson (again), where we enjoyed a celebratory beer and dinner and went for another hike around town (still addicted). The next morning it was time to say goodbye to the South Island-- our beautiful, loyal companion of the previous six weeks. A bittersweet departure indeed. You will be missed.

At least we left in style. Rather than take a three hour bus, to a four ferry to get to Wellington, we opted for a thirty-five minute plane ride (for the same price!). While it was a little "unofficial" (we just walked out onto the tarmac), It. Was. Awesome. Our chariot:

The beautiful sunrise:

And our final approach into Wellington:

It's city time!

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