Left camp after brekkie and cuppa about 0650 - not much point in hanging around as we are always awake early and we were expecting a possible deterioration in the weather later in the day. After a short day we arrived at Royal Hut at around 1115, after 3.5 hours of walking time over 10km or so. The GPS track for the day is here.
We climbed back up to the orange markers through tussock and sidled our way up through more tussock until after about 600m we met the old 4wd farm track we were expecting. From here it was another 2.4km of fairly steep, steady climbing up a rocky/gravelly disused farm track to Bullock Bow Saddle. This was previously farmed before tenure review saw it come back to public ownership - hence the old farm tracks. The 3km took us 1hr45 of walking and we climbed 650m vertical - so had a rest at the saddle! It was cool overnight (7deg at 0530) but dawned fine and sunny with, thankfully, little wind. So some great views from the saddle, although the weather did start to deteriorate a little, with some cloud cover, as we were there admiring the views.
Then it was downhill! Still on the old farm track (although a bit the worse for wear now it is no longer farmed). We passed a number of clear mountain tarns on the way down. Three hours and 8km from our overnight camp spot got us to the junction with Bush Stream track - 450m lower than the saddle. From here it was 2.2km (just over 30 minutes) gently uphill to Royal Hut where, as noted above, we arrived about 1115 for a ”half rest day”!
We had been looking at our stored weather forecasts (retrieved when at Mt Potts) and it suggested some dodgy weather later today and overnight, that looked as though it might clear by tomorrow morning. The weather had been threatening a little since Bullock Bow Saddle when it clouded over. We only got a couple of spots of rain before reaching the hut, but soon after it started to rain steadily, albeit not yet heavily (I'm writing this bit on Google Docs at 1145!), so we were glad to have made the hut in time. If it clears overnight as suggested it should give us a better day for Stag Saddle tomorrow - would be great to have some views especially as it is the highest point on the TA, and the views are supposed to be stunning.
We settled in for a relaxing few hours, although the weather got colder and we got into our sleeping bags for a while. Around 1430 B stuck her head out during a break in the weather to find a dusting of snow in the hills above us. It rained on and off but warmed a little by the time Phil and Viggo arrived in just before 1700. Another hot drink was had to warm everyone up and we all settled in.
Phil and Viggo had been at Stone Hut last night and said the trip up Bush Stream was OK but that they could see how a little more water would make it pretty tricky and potentially dangerous. We have since heard from some that have had not so pleasant trips up the route due to higher water levels. As the route took longer, they also got a bit wetter and colder than us as most of teh worst weather arrived after we had reached Royal Hut.
About 1830 a very cold and wet French chap, Samuel, arrived in. It took a little while and a small fire to thaw him out so he could get his fingers working properly!! Everyone had dinner and were in sleeping bags by about 2030. Hoping that the weather will improve tomorrow.
Belinda and Anthony (aka Tony) Hadfield made a decision, in their late 50's, to do something a "bit different" and walk New Zealand's 3000km Te Araroa Trail over summer 2015/16 - although updates will now tell you that this plan will take longer now!!. As the old saying goes - "don't leave home 'til you've seen the country"!!