After a chilly but well rested night we woke early to get a head start on the pass. As it was so cold out we ended up not really getting going until normal time anyway but beat out most of the other people heading the same way in the hut. The track started out by immediately climbing up and onto the pass. The climb was only about 450m as we’d completed a lot of it coming up the valley yesterday. It was a tough climb with some rock hoping but only took an hour or so to reach the pass. From the top we had some of the most spectacular views on the hike so far and sat on the ridge as the sun just came up and touched the top to warm us. There was cloud rolling over the opposing mountains like a constant wave with the sun just peaking above.
As we passed through the pass and onto the other side the wind picked up and we were all of a sudden freezing again and being buffeted down the mountain. We quickly climbed down and reached the bush line. In terms of steepness this wasn’t much better and we both spent a large amount of time sliding down the mud.
Reaching the bottom and the West fork of the Sabine river we continued to follow along this until reaching the next hut where we stopped for lunch. Given that it was only noon and we only planned to go another short distance to the next hut, and having a lot of extra food, we decided to cook some couscous in addition to our usual tuna wraps and take a longer lunch.
Continuing on after lunch we had a short 3 hour walk up to Blue Lake Hut. This puts us at the start of the last pass for the track, the Waiau Pass, tomorrow morning. The trail follows the other branch of the Sabine river up the next valley over and was a very gentle climb with great views most of the way. We passed a number of other hikers heading in the opposite direction who all spoke highly of the hut, it must’ve been pretty busy last night being only a 16 person hut.
While we didn’t get to see much in the Richmond’s this has definitely been our most spectacular day in terms of views so far. The rivers are all in full flow and leave a constant gushing noise throughout the valleys adding to the wilderness effect. On reaching the hut we realized that Blue Lake is the famous world’s clearest lake. We took a quick side hike to the lake and it was incredibly clear. It’s an amazingly beautiful alpine area and if the weather holds we’ll be able to get great views from the top of the pass tomorrow.