Cameron Hut – An Unexpected Epic (Part Two)

“A Mish a Day” #99 Cameron Hut – Part 2. Hakatere Conservation Area. 5.9.2013. The wind increased dramatically with a big drop in temperature, and it began to snow. The wind and snow now began to make itself at home in the Cameron Valley, a normal occurrence for this time of the year . I was still comfortable, wearing plenty of warm merino layers, and with a full suit of Gortex on top. I also was wearing brand new gators on top of my freshly waterproofed leather hiking boots. At one point I reached for my water-bottle only to find that the water inside had frozen solid, and was undrinkable. Another issue was that this part of the track (which is now marked with poles) was marked with rock cairns, which were now buried in the deep snow

I always make sure to study maps of the areas I am going to visit, and this was comforting as I knew roughly where I was, and that there was a mound of moraine to climb over just before the hut. It was now past 5pm and I knew my ‘daylight’ was limited, and I did not want to spend the night out in the open. As I pushed on the storm continued to increase in strength, and was now a full on blizzard. At one point I hadn’t seen any sort of track marker for about half an hour, and I had the feeling like something was wrong. I turned around, and as I reluctantly started heading back down the valley in the dull light of the early evening, I just caught a glimpse of just the top of an orange marker pole poking out of the snow. After a massive sense of relief that I had found the track again, I had to focus back on the job at hand because this wasn’t the hut, and I wasn’t safe yet. I pulled my head torch out of my bag, and pushed on into the blizzard with the darkness of night rapidly approaching. After scrambling over snow covered rocks and boulders for about 15 minutes, I saw a un-natural square shape appear out of the darkness off in the distance. This had to be the hut! As I got closer I could make out that it was definitely a building of some sort, which meant shelter from the storm. I somehow found the last of my energy reserves, plugged my way through the deep snow, and staggered into the hut at about 7pm. Getting in the hut and out of the wind was pure bliss. And the change in temperature was enough to give me some motivation to make a much needed hot drink. After warming up with a drink, I made a glorious hot meal, which I only ate half of before exhaustion threw me into my sleeping bag, and then very quickly into the deep sleep of exhaustion. The storm continued during the night, and in the morning I found super fine snow in small piles throughout the hut that had been driven through small cracks in the walls by the strong winds.

My early-ish breakfast was last night’s dinner reheated, and as I ate dinner/breakfast with a hot coffee. During the morning I finally got to see some of the stunning peaks of the Arrowsmith Range, and the sight of those magnificent peaks made the epic journey to the hut worth it. It was now time to retrace my footsteps and head back down the valley, and as I kicked the snow away and opened the door, I saw a mountainous world totally covered in fresh snow. I could see a marker pole off in the distance up on a moraine ridge, and I was off back into the snow, but this time without a blizzard driving down on me. With better visibility I saw the spot where I was heading in the wrong direction further up the valley, and this made me realize how lucky I was to have that strange feeling of being in the wrong place. This rest of the valley was a piece of cake compared with the day before, and after a solid hike I was back at my car, and ready to relive the experience through my photos in the comfort of a warm house!

Cameron Hut Mid-Storm

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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