Cool Conditions (Part Two) – Rees Valley / Earnslaw Hut

“On a Mish” #108 Cool Conditions (Part Two). Rees Valley / Earnslaw Hut. Mt Aspiring National Park. 25.7.2010. The magical shapes created by water freezing can take you back to your childhood. Mesmerised by the wondrous creations, you might find yourself in a state of awe and amazement and, as long as you are dressed for it, the spectacle will make putting up with the chilly temperatures worth it. Although the winter of 2010 had failed to produce much snow down low, it had definitely been cold enough to create some magic on the side of Pikirakatahi / Mt Earnslaw…

After clearing out the ghosts I unloaded my bag and set myself up in Earnslaw Hut. To think that people had hauled the building materials up to the site of the hut is amazing and made me think less of the weight in my pack.

In my time I have come across some smokey huts, Earnslaw Hut is right up there with the smokiest. The cold outside meant the fire was required, but due to the blocked chimney every now and then I had to step outside to get some precious oxygen. It got to the point where I just let the fire peter out and retreated to the warmth of my sleeping bag.

I woke up early-ish the next day to find that not only had the water in my bottle frozen solid but there was also a layer of frost on the table… in the hut! Over time my exploring gear has improved a lot, but at this stage my basic kit was struggling to keep the cold at bay.

With my bottle a no go I had to trek to the small stream near the hut for water. I had to avoid the frozen strands of tussock to get to the icy flow. After getting back to the hut my cooker was working overtime to heat what really should be ice in these cold conditions!

After a coffee and some breakfast it was time to pack up and head out into the frigid fresh air.

Earnslaw Hut… Probably Haunted!

On my way down towards the Rees Valley I stopped for a drink and to take in the view, when I got a huge fright. To my surprise there was a hunter hiding away in the bushes just off the track. If I hadn’t stopped for a drink at that precise moment I would have just walked straight past him. It was creepy to think there were eyes in the forest watching me hike. We had a chat and I reported that I hadn’t seen anything around the track or hut that he could shoot, and apart from that I don’t think he was here for a conversation and was probably annoyed there was hiker me scaring away the animals with his terrible singing!

At the bottom of the hill I knew it was an easy stroll back to the car park, however that was on the other side of the valley with the Rees River in the way. The river was flowing lower than the day before due to the cold temperatures in the big mountains higher up. Although it was easier to cross it was still cold, bloody cold! And it was after hiking a couple of kilometres down the valley that I started to get feeling back in my poor feet. To think that the early explorers / miners would spend weeks wet in the mountains seeking their fortune made me feel slightly warmer and also happy to live in the days of merino socks.

On the way back I was already planning future missions in the area, for the place is polluted with possible climbable peaks and long valleys to seek out and explore. The ground glistened with frost and in places I would kick at the frost on the tussock grass and it would flood the air with a fine dust of ice. After doing this a couple of times I realised that any water on the outside of my boots had frozen solid and it was like I had a clear shield covering the leather. Just another amazing feature of a land seemingly frozen in time and silent, apart from the sound of the rumbling Rees River.

I got back to my car to find it covered in a thick layer of frost which meant I had to fire up the old girl and let her run for a while to warm everything up. I also had to collect water for my windshield and scrape off the worst of the ice before I could go anywhere. This was in keeping with the consistent theme of the mish, coldness! The mish was an epic with memories and views to match. There’s always something so very cool about heading out in cold conditions…

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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