Te Araroa Trail – Travers Saddle to Blue Lake
I woke in the night to an amazing starry sky, then after a great night’s sleep, the wind woke me up at 5.15 am. It’s still dark at this time now, which somehow makes me feel like I’m up getting up to go to work!. The tent had a little moisture inside so I wiped it down and let the wind do the rest. Someone’s torch light passed the tent at 6am – they’re keen, walking in the dark!
I set off at 6.30, just as the clouds became tinged with pink over the St Arnaud mountains to the East.
I reached the Travers Saddle 1787m at 7.45 am. The track was great, a poled trail up through tussock. There was some boulder hopping required just before the saddle, but it was nice & grippy underfoot and pretty easy. I’ve run out of superlatives to describe the beauty of the surrounding mountains – Mount Travers was spectacular, the bare rocky peaks looming over me, with large scree slopes still touched with snow in a couple of places.
Across to the East the sun peeked over the mountains. As I climbed further over the Travers Saddle the Franklin ridge and St James range appeared before me. I would walk around Mt Franklin today and will walk beneath the St James range tomorrow.
Towards Blue Lake Hut
Once over the saddle the descent wasn’t scary or difficult, just long and steep, through beech forest. I reached the bottom of the descent and reached the Sabine river West branch at 9.15 am for a well deserved break. The trail continued here along the Blue Lake track to West Sabine hut, which I reached at 10.40 am (This is where the trail splits, Travers Sabine and TA).
Blue Lake Hut
I reached Blue Lake hut at 1.30pm. I didn’t fancy tackling the Waiau Pass today as well, as I wasn’t sure it was a good idea to attempt another huge saddle. Really annoyingly, 20 mins before the hut I slipped into the mud and soaked my feet, which I’d managed to keep dry up until now! I set up my tent on one of the two camp spots behind the hut, and walked down to the lake.
The Blue Lake is famous, because in 2011 NIWA found it to be the clearest known body of freshwater in the world. The water clarity is between 75-80m. It’s fed by springs from Lake Constance but the water is filtered through a huge dam created by landslide debris (which separates the two lakes) and almost all sized suspended particles are removed. It’s temperature is between 5-8 degrees celsius. It was quite cloudy with the occasional spit of rain, so I didn’t manage to catch the lake in all its glory in a decent photo, but it really was very lovely, very clear, and very blue!
I ate an early dinner at 4pm (which I later regretted as I was hungry again by 7pm) and chatted to my hut buddies. It was almost a full hut tonight – people making a side trip to blue lake from the Trevers Sabine circuit, and Te Araroa hikers.
I’m getting another early night tonight. I head over the Waiau Pass tomorrow which is one of the most difficult sections of this stretch of TA.