Mr mouse and his entire family kept me awake for much of last night, nibbling the rubbish that other people had left in the firelace, and generally scrabbling around the rest of the hut. When I got up, they were undeterred, and flitted here and there as I ate my breakfast. My food and belongings thankfully remained untouched!
I got on the trail at 7.30am. It was a 30kms uphill kind of a day. The first section was easy enough through nice beech forest with a couple of bridged rivers. This led up to the first climb of the day through the ‘hanging judge’ switchbacks. After this came a downhill section, the ‘boneyard’ boulder field, a relic of a huge earthquake in 1929 which threw enormous boulders far out and down the mountain. I passed by a couple of small lakes, before I arrived at Stern hut at 11.30am.
I had a very quick lunch and left at 11.45am. The rest of the day was uphill. Firstly through beech forest switchbacks to the ‘Skyline steps’ which I reached at 2pm. This brought me out onto the Skyline ridge. This was a lovely walk, but you couldn’t have paid me to get on a bike up there!! Up until now I’d been thinking “I wonder what all the fuss is about” .. re. the track being such a difficult mountain bike track, but this was it!! The trail was now into alpine country, and there were sheer drops, switchbacks and plenty of gnarly track at a height of +1000m.
From the ridge I could see the Ghost Lake hut far in the distance (uphill, of course) and the trail winding it’s way up to it. There were spectacular views all around, including large columns of rock which the hut was perched on. I arrived at Ghost hut at 4.15pm after passing through a lovely cirque with a small lake in it.
My tent site was a wooden platform with ropes to tie my tent to (instead of pegging it). A few of my neighbours – several members of a Christchurch mountain biking club, kindly helped me with it. The view from my pitch was the best tent view I’ve had yet! Mountains as far as the eye could see – over the Kahurangi National Park to the Buller river and in the distance, the Richmond ranges. There were lots of weka around, so I made sure all my belongings were safely tucked away!
I enjoyed my dinner with the Christchurch crew, and retreated to an early bed as it got very chilly very quickly at the 1040m altitude. I can’t wait to see the sunrise in the morning, over the mountains.