A Freezing Fool (Part Four) – Cameron Hut

“On a Mish” #99 A Freezing Fool (Part Four). Cameron Hut. Hakatere Conservation Area. 5.9.2013. The sanctuary of a remote hut can seem so much better when you have had a real fight to get to it. The small hut at the top of the Cameron Valle is a delightful stroll during the long days of summer. From riverside hiking to wandering through fields of alpine tussock, all while surrounded by mountains which increase in size the further up the valley you get.

However my first visit to the hut was slightly different…

After my battle up the valley I was stoked to get to the hut, and I think my feet were even happier than my brain. I took my soaking socks off to see some sad looking toes. I had been in snow for many hours, and this had been a challenge for my leather hiking boots. After finishing this mish I lost a couple of toe nails and my feet haven’t been the same since!

While wind and snow swirled around outside, I slept soundly, dreaming about doing what I was currently doing. My wilderness addict mind is never far from thoughts of going on missions.

Early-ish the next morning I woke to the silence of a snow-covered environment. Powder snow had snuck in through the small cracks in the hut’s woodwork and this had me thinking about what it would have been like if I hadn’t found the hut. Four walls and a roof doesn’t seem like much, but in the wild it can be a life saver.

I had multiple coffees and a big bowl of porridge before I even thought about leaving. Sneaking out to the outdoor toilet had shown me that the tracks in the snow I had made on the hike in were long gone. The rock cairns which marked the way out where well buried, but at least the storm had subsided for now.

It was hard to say goodbye to the little hut, it had been a much-needed shelter from a fairly gnarly storm. With the inside looking cleaner than when I had arrived, I took my first steps into the untouched powder snow. Thankfully I had gravity on my side for most of the hike back down the valley. The weather closed in again at the top of the valley but by the time it did I was nearing the end of my mish and looking forward to resting my now very sore, sad-looking feet.

On the drive home I thought about my adventure up the Cameron Valley a lot. It had been much tougher than expected, with both the weather and time working against me. It was a good slap in the face about the reality of winter hiking, and treating hiking times with respect. The extra couple of hours combined with the snow changed the trip dramatically, and with my toes now scarred from frost nip I will never forget the time I was a freezing fool fighting a fierce storm in order to get to Cameron Hut.

You would think that after an experience like this I would have learned a lesson about heading to Cameron Hut during the winter, bu three years later I would return with my friend, and that time the track would have not one but two freezing fools on it!

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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