Te Araroa Trail – Richmond Ranges – Slaty hut to Tarn hut – over the Rintouls
This was probably one of the biggest and best days on Te Araroa trail, over the Little and Big Rintoul mountains.
We had set the alarm for 4am this morning. The forecast was looking good and we wanted to see the sunrise over the mountains. Flo got up with us and we all made breakfast outside the hut – trying not to wake the others. We left Slaty hut at 5.15am just as it was getting light.
Slaty hut to Old Man hut
We set off at a good pace, and as we approached the top of the first mountain, the sky changed through various shades of blue and pink ahead of us. We paused to take it all in.
We could see the immediate part of the day’s hike ahead of us. It was certainly a sight, heading over a long ridge to Little Rintoul and Big Rintoul mountains, then over the Purple Tops. We didn’t got down to Old Man hut, but passed the junction early on.
This had been the day I had a) wanted amazing weather for and b) had secretly dreaded, for the climbs, gnarly technical sections and some big drop-offs.
We had our good weather… Tick!! I took a deep breath and prepared myself for the rest.
We were at the bottom of Little Rintoul by 9am, and had managed the couple of hundred metres climb up by 9.30am. It was slow going over the rocks.
There were great views at the top of Little Rintoul 1643m (5390 ft) and we could see the clouds gathering over the big mountain ahead of us.
Little Rintoul to Big Rintoul
The climb down from Little Rintoul was several hundred metres drop. It was pretty steep and rocky.
There was just one section which was every bit as terrifying as I thought it would be. Blair and I have spent plenty of time discussing the different levels of the “survivable fall” or indeed whether a fall from a particular spot is survivable or not.
There were a couple of parts this morning which definitely fell into the ‘not survivable’ section… One slip and it’s game over.
A couple of years ago I never would have thought I could do something like this, and it’s been an enormous challenge for me – especially as I’m scared of heights. That said, I know I’ve done everything I can to get here in good shape. My pack isn’t too heavy, I know the width and depth of it, I know how far I can stretch a leg or not, I know I can trust my knees and ankles, my shoes are good, I trust my fellow hikers, and I take it slowly.
The boys guided me very slowly down the short tough section and we were glad to have a little break afterwards between the two mountains. We started the next climb up Mt Rintoul at 10.30am, then took the second slow, rocky climb of the day. By 11.15am we reached the top of Mt Rintoul – 1731m (5682 ft)
There were no views at the top as the clouds had come in, so we didn’t linger! It was pretty chilly up there and we hurried to get down as quickly as we could.
Having made our way over the top we descended out of the clouds and continued down the massive scree slope which was excellent fun! We could almost ‘surf’ the scree down, and it made the going pretty fast.
After the huge scree slope there was a steep forested section down to Rintoul hut. The down climb was around 500m. We reached the hut at 12.15pm and had a well-deserved lunch… after 7 hours walking.
Rintoul hut to the Purple Tops
After lunch it was more climbing – this time up to the aptly named Purple Top 1532m (5026 ft). The sun was back out and we had some great views back to Rintoul and onwards to the Richmond ranges.
The Purple Tops to Tarn hut
Soon enough we were descending another 500m back into the forest again and finally, around 4 Kms later we reached Tarn hut at 4.15pm
There was a great camping opportunity at Tarn hut – a large mostly flat great area. We decided to camp rather than use the hut… Mostly so that we could justify having brought the tent with us!
That night we met a couple of Taiwanese ladies at the hut (who we’d seen in the hut books and wondered if we’d catch..) Carol and Lulu. They had returned to NZ for a second year on Te Araroa trail, having hiked the North Island last year. A little later on we met Sita, a German girl living in Auckland, who I had first met at a Te Araroa trail meet-up that I’d organised before the start of this season.
We had an early dinner and fell into our tents for an early bedtime. We’d covered around 22 Kms and at a conservative estimate had climbed at least another 1200m (3920 ft) today.