Day 92: Richmond Range Day 3: Rintoul to Mid Wairoa
Friday, February 9, 2024 9:34 pm
Location: Mid Wairoa Hut (1944.8 km)

My third day in the RIchmond Range took me mostly downhill, to a hut on the Wairoa River.

I woke up a couple of times overnight. Through the hut’s window, I could see city lights off in the distance on Tasman Bay, probably Richmond.

I didn’t sleep well. It was rather humid in the hut, thanks to the clouds that had blown in earlier in the night. I was either cold, or uncomfortably damp. So once my alarm went off, I just ignored it for about half an hour, not getting up until near 7.

By that time, half the people staying in the hut had already gone, aimed for summiting the nearby Purple Top mountain in time for sunrise.

It was cold overnight and in the morning, which did little to provide me with urgency to leave the hut, but I finally did around 8:20.

Leaving the hut, I re-entered the forest, beginning a steep climb up towards Purple Top. In the forest, it was quite cold, and I briefly contemplated stopping to get out my fleece. I’m glad I didn’t, though, because I quite quickly warmed up, and once I was out of the forest, the sunlight did a good job of warming me up.

Mt. Rintoul
Mt. RintoulView of Rintoul from below Purple Top.

The trail climbed up to a saddle below Purple Top, then wound around the back side of the mountain, heading through a bit of a rocky stretch before descending into forest again.

I wanted to summit Purple Top, but decided not to. The past few days have left me quite tired, and although the summit looked to be reasonably easy to get to, I didn’t want to burn more time and energy on an unnecessary side excursion.

Once the trail was back in the forest, it followed the ridge for a while. The short stubby trees (maybe only 3-4 meters tall at most) let in a lot of light, and it was quite nice to walk through. When the forest thinned, I quite frequently had views towards Tasman Bay.

Ridgetop Forest
Ridgetop Forest

The trail eventually started descending more steeply towards Tarn Hut, a smaller hut in a clearing near a tarn. When I arrived, there was a goat grazing on the grass around the hut; it wandered off into the woods when I approached.

Goat at Tarn Hut
Goat at Tarn Hut

The lake itself was a roughly circular greenish lake ringed with algae. It didn’t look very deep. It did have quite a number of tadpoles.

I stopped for a longish break at the hut, then continued on. There was one last climb before the trail began its final descent for the day, shedding 600 meters in less than 4 km, mostly in two very steep drops with a bit of a lull between.

My knees quite unhappy, the trail finally deposited me along the Wairoa River, and after crossing a swingbridge with a somewhat cramped and steep climb down from bridge level to the trail, dodging under the bridge support cables and climbing down a rock. It felt like it could have been made a lot easier with a piece of rebar to act as a stair step.

The Mid Wairoa hut was just a short distance away, clearly occupied from the clothes laid out outside to dry. I went in to find Dash, Cam, and Mark lying on their bunks, and yelling at me to shut the door, because of the sand flies and bumblebees outside, which we wanted to keep outside.

The hut was like a sauna. The windows could be opened, but they didn’t have screens, so if we did, the hut would be filled with bugs.

The hut didn’t have a water tank, instead, water came from the river, a short walk down a dirt, then rock path. The river was quite cool, welcome after being in the hut for a few minutes. I opted to rinse off my shirt in the river, since it was quite crusty from sweat over the past several days.

The sun moved behind the trees and the mountains of the deep valley we were in after not too much longer, and the hut started to cool off, though it stayed warm and toasty for several more hours.

Later, four more southbounders arrived. Emma (originally from DC), traveling with brothers Michael and Jeff, arrived first. Later, another Michael (“Highlander”) arrived, wearing a kilt. (I pegged him as an AT hiker, since he had a shirt on for Franconia Notch State Park, on the AT in New Hampshire.)

Tomorrow will be mostly a long climb, up the river and across a ridge. According to the trail notes, it’s reportedly washed-out in places, and “extreme care” is warranted, so that’ll be loads of fun.