Te Araroa Trail – Richmond Ranges – Top Wairoa hut to Porters Creek hut
Christmas Day on Te Araroa trail 🙂🌲 We got up at 4am as Flo wanted to call his family in Europe on their Christmas Eve when we got a signal at the top of the mountain. We were ready to leave Top Wairoa hut just as it got light at 5.15am.
Top Wairoa to Hunters hut
We began the day with an 800m (2600 ft) climb from Top Wairoa hut up Mt Ellis 1615m (5300 ft). It started with rock-hopping the large rough-surfaced, red boulders for half an hour or so, before emerging into an area of tussock, then coming up to a rocky summit. We reached the top around 7am. The views back to the hut were amazing.
Blair and I made good time, but Flo was quite far behind us, as he was suffering with his knees. As we got to the saddle before Mt Ellis the wind had got up to a strong gale, and the light drizzle turned into light horizontal rain which stung our faces. It was absolutely freezing – this was shaping up to be an interesting Christmas day!
We found a little shelter behind the rock but it was too cold to wait for Flo there, so we carried on up and around the beautiful cirque.
We crossed a huge scree slope and continued around the flanks of the mountains, way above the headwaters of the Motueka river left branch.
We finally found a spot behind a rock with a little shelter from the raging gale and amazingly had a phone signal. It was 7.45am. I made a couple of quick Christmas calls to my family – it wasn’t a good idea to hang around up there.
Once we rounded the cirque it was downhill through forest to the river and another couple of Kms to Hunters hut. We managed to get ourselves lost just the once.. But were able to easily backtrack.
At 9.45am we reached Hunters hut. There was a memorial there dedicated to two hunters who died in 1995. They were staying at the old hut and were swept away in th emiddele of the night in floodwaters. Apparently the river dammed in the flood, then suddenly burst, causing the deluge to sweep downstream.
We met Carl in the hut, a Kiwi guy hiking just the South Island of Te Araroa. He headed off, and we stayed until 11.30 waiting for Flo, but then headed off ourselves.
Hunters hut to Porters Creek hut
Out of Hunters hut we spent 30 minutes climbing up and over more red rock boulders.
A few up and down forested sections followed before we came to a few gnarly sections. The terrain turned more rocky and we had to negotiate some nasty, hard, slippery slopes.
We sidled around a narrow path – which was really only the width of one of my feet, and dug our poles in, to get some kind of grip and hopefully prevent a slide should the loose footing come away underneath us. There were some large drop offs to the gully below and we didn’t want to put a foot wrong.
After what seemed like an age, but was only a couple of Kms, the terrain changed again and became less rocky and more boggy. Up on one of the higher points at the head of Alpine Creek we could see down to Porters hut. It was about a Km away. The route down was straightforward but very boggy. We forgot about trying to keep ourselves clean and embraced the mud.
Porters Creek hut
We reached Porters Creek hut at 2.30pm – just 3 hours after we left Hunters. We were very cold, and were pleased to be greeted at the hut by English couple Katy and Tony, and Carl who we’d meet earlier. They had a fire going at the hut.. a perfect Christmas present!
We spent the afternoon eating nibbles, and opened the Christmas presents to ourselves – a small pocket of Olives, and a five pack of Fererro Rocher chocolates.
We enjoyed a full house in the hut that night. David arrived and set up his tent outside, then a few hours later Flo arrived. He was a broken man – the rain had set in and he looked cold and dazed. Blair helped him with his gear and made him a hot chocolate. We gave him a Christmas chocolate. Within 20 minutes of getting to the hut he was asleep.
An hour or so later Annika and Malte arrived. All the beds were taken, so they set themselves up on the floor. Thinking back, I can only imagine the smell in the hut as 8 dirty TA hikers dried ourselves and our wet gear. We wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else on Christmas day 🙂