Milford Track Day 3 - Mintaro Hut - Dumpling Hut
Dumpling Hut, Milford Track Travel Blog› entry 7 of 10 › view all entries
Domingos Enero quince (Sunday January 15th)
I am practically fluent in Spanish now, as long as we restrict conversation to days of the week in January, a fairly common topic among spanish locals I believe.
Unfortunately we were able to wake to the thought of the big hill in front of us, but I was feeling well-rested. Sure enough it was raining outside, but news filtered through that there hadn't been enough rain to justify a helicopter ride. I'm fairly certain that these flights aren't actually free but I would have taken it since travel insurance was on my side.
We were high enough up the mountain that it had been a fairly cold night so I had slept in several of the clothes I would wear for hiking anyway. The positive of this is that I did't have to change and bear the full brunt of a cold morning, the negative of course being that I smell, but when you're among 40 other people who also smell it's not a big issue.
The morning meal was surprisingly, oats, I went for two satchets worth to drop the weight of that pack by several crucial grams and after not long we were on our way. The group of us powered our way up the mountain with very few breaks, which surprised us all given the difficulty we had expected with fully laden backpacks. I was later to learn that trampers tend to be divided in to groups of either 'up' people or 'down' people, I suspect most our group were 'up' people.
Knowing how far we had to go was a big factor so we were appreciative of that. We knew to stop when the vegetation changed and pile on our extra layers, and then sure enough as we popped out at McKinnon's grave the weather closed in. Much of the spectacular view down the valley was clouded over and we appreciated even more that we had made the efforts late yesterday.
Only about fifteen minutes went by before the snow started. Given that I had lots of warm gear, gloves, beanie etc I was enjoying the novelty of hiking in snow, beats the heck out of rain if you've got the right stuff on. Still I was happy to have a stop in Pass hut and get some coffee, sweet coffee eases the pain. Right next to the hut is the 'loo with a view' which is a little port-a-potty looking box that has a window staring down the valley. There wasn't the greatest view that morning, but I'm sure there has been many a happy patron there
So begins the descent down the mountain, which they always warn is tougher than the ascent. You wind your way down 900 metres through the valley, often straddling yourself across waterfalls pouring down the valley walls.
About an hour from our destination, Dumpling hut, we stopped for lunch, and prepared ourselves for a side track which let's you get close to Sutherland falls (highest waterfall in NZ). This stop happens at Quintin hut, where the 'guideys' spend their last night. The guidey royalty are kind enough to provide a shelter for the 'indie' walkers where you can either eat your lunch surrounded by sandflies, or lock yourself in a room smelling of cat pee.
Despite having to trail along at the back for this, it was well worth the limp. You stand at the bottom of these over-powering falls, which generate their own wind at the bottom which becomes more and more likely to knock you off your feet the closer you get. Trailing behind the group a bit did give me the ability to sing a few tunes without reprisal, so it wasn't all bad :)
So the backpack went back on and we knocked over the last hour to Dumpling hut, settling in again with a large choice of bunk beds. The snorer from the previous night had kindly relocated to another cabin, but I distributed my spare ear-plugs around anyway.
The ranger here was Ross, as tall and gangly a man as you will meet, who had been hiking around with a backpack full of cement earlier, as you do. He provided a good half hour of education mixed with entertainment, and was easily the best of the three rangers. One handy tip he provided was that to figure out the weather the following day "If you look over there and can see Dumpling hill then it's going to rain, if you can't see it then it's already raining" :) After a coffee, and earning my wood-chopping scout badge, we cooked up a dinner of freeze-dried (Moroccan?) lamb, with carrot. Also the bonus of sun-dried tomatoes courtesy of Mike and Andrea, they were the kind that we know, but I assume they are somewhat different in the US. Oh well who are we to say no!
There was a quick evening stroll to see the glow worms that ranger Ross had mentioned, but for the record this is not worthwhile, I think I managed to see both of the worms....well maybe there were ten....but not many. Then off to bed to let the pain-killers work their magic on my knee.