Date: Thursday, 09 May 2019
Start: Horse Camp Hut
Finish: Grey Mare Hut
Daily Kilometres: 22.4
Total AAWT Kilometres: 495.3
Weather: Very cold and mostly sunny
Accommodation: Grey Mare Hut
Lunch: Trail Mix
Dinner: Rehydrated Meal
Aches: None to speak of
Highlight: The beautiful wintry early walking with the rising sun illuminating the ice-covered tree branches and snow-frosted vegetation.
Lowlight: Multiple creek crossing that were just too deep and/or wide to be negotiated without getting our boots and socks wet.
Pictures: Click here
Map and Position: Click here for Google Map
We woke at 6:30 after our late night yesterday, and were walking by soon after 7:30 under partially clouded skies with no hint of precipitation, but it was cold. There was snow on the ground, but not thick, and the mountains around all had fresh white dustings. Tomorrow's weather forecast is for another cold front and more snow, so we decided that we will plan our next two days to stay in the mountain huts where there will be better protection, possibly wood for a fire, and we won't have to pack up, and set up, a wet tent. Having decided on that strategy, we could either have two short days, or one long and one short day, to be sure of finishing at huts. We were hopeful of reaching the more distant hut, O'Keefe's, today (35km), but the fallback plan was Grey Mare Hut (22km).
Initially, we made rapid progress on a beautiful morning on a good firetrail, and stopped in at Schlinks Hut, which was quite large, for breakfast. But, when we turned onto Valentine's Trail, our progress slowed somewhat. It was rougher underfoot, and had many short sharp hills, though visibility was good and the alpine scenery spectacular. We had seen some reasonably fresh footprints going in our direction on the trail and in the snow, and just before reaching Valentine's Hut, met a young couple coming the other way. They were both wearing Outward Bound shirts, and were out for a couple of days hiking. We had a chat and they said they were retracing their steps having visited Valentine's Hut, and would perhaps hike out to Guthega Power Station (where they had left their car) today as they weren't equipped for the 20cm of snow forecast for tomorrow!
Valentine's Hut was beautifully maintained, and would have been a good place to stay, but it was still early in the day so we kept on moving. We retained hopes of reaching O'Keefe's Hut, but the slow trail and time wasted futilely trying to find a way across multiple creek crossings without getting our feet wet, made it increasingly less likely. Just before 3pm, we reached Grey Mare Hut and decided that with 12km still to go to O'Keefe's, we were likely to end up walking after dark again, and neither of us were keen for another long day.
We climbed the sidetrail up to Grey Mare Hut, which has a spectacular location high on a mountainside overlooking an alpine valley, and stopped for the night. It was already very cold, and we both had wet boots and socks, so the first order of business was to get a fire going. This we managed, with a little help from some kerosene left by a previous occupant, and we then attended to the normal camp set-up chores. Despite the fire, the hut was cold, and we were soon wearing most of our clothes again after a warm flannel wash. We ate early and went to bed early.
Depending on how much snow falls tonight and tomorrow, we are now likely to be a little behind our revised schedule which has us finishing around noon next Wednesday (5.5 days time), but the forecast is for a stable and dry weather pattern after tomorrow's cold front passes and I have little doubt we can make up the time.