It’s autumn in the Southern Alps. That means so many lovely things. The smell of mulch and crisp leaves falling from the trees. The quieting of tourist towns (though only just). The squash. The breeze. And, of course, the snow.
It’s not too big of a deal. A person wanting to walk in the mountains for an entire season or more is bound to experience some weather. And how….
It happens slowly,. You don’t realize what you’ve done until your deep in it. We were sitting at a hut around about 1pm trying to decide if we should go on. We had a new hiking buddy for this stretch, Damien. This was the Breast Hill Track between Twizel and Wanaka. We arrived to the hut after our friend. He was making himself some tea and thinking it probably wise to stay put for the rest of the day.
That thought hadn’t even occurred to me. Craig and I were planning on eating our lunch in the hut and moving on. Out the window of the hut it looked like this….
Obviously there would be more snow up high, but it was 4WD track up and over the mountain, and having done plenty of hiking in the Rockies, I knew that this was something we could find our way through. There would be snow, but not enough to get lost. Plus, there was a hut on the other side of the pass. So it’s up and over and into shelter. That made me feel confident.
Our hiking buddy, Damien, is from Australia, and really thought we were insane. Poor fellow didn’t want to be left behind, however, so he put his wet shoes and socks back on with us and headed out into it.
We grumbled a bit at first. The wind and wintry mix was a bit bombarding. Still, I felt good about it. Sitting in a hut, looking at the cold weather is honestly chillier and less comfortable to me than moving through it. Sure enough, we all felt pretty good after about 10 minutes. It was fun to see Damien in the snow. He hasn’t been in it much in his lifetime and he appreciated our advice about it. We all agreed it was good weather to move in, better than a lot of the rainy days we’d had, honestly. At least the snow can be dry(ish).
The major lesson that came to all three of us, is that life is a lot scarier from the view out your window, than it is when you’re actually in it.
The hut that night was quite crowded, but oh so warm. A little too warm, with the must of wet-hiker-foot (similar, but altogether more disturbing than wet dog) filling the air. It was good, though. I was happy to get put through some challenges, knowing we had an extended town stay coming up in Wanaka, at the end of this track. I really wanted to earn our next shower. For, there are fewer feelings I love more than wanting to shout, “Hallelujah” when the hot water comes pouring out of the wall, and you watch the dirt river slip down the drain. It’s good stuff.
Thru-hiking is my way of reminding myself, constantly, that I am lucky.
The next day from that crowded hut was still in the snow, but this time we came to a hut just below snow line at the end of it. The next morning we woke up to sun. Glorious, shining sun. Kevin, a French hiker who we’ve been in the same realm of since before the canoe trip months ago, laughed at it that morning and said, “Maybe today, around 1 or 2, I will go for a swim.”
“Ha! Yeah, from snow to swim in one morning!” I laughed. It was a beautiful decent over a gorgeous lake from there. Starting out above the clouds.
We made it to town in great spirits. We stopped at cafes and bars on the walk in and talked about great things. Like literature and travel and Bob’s Burgers. It was bliss. Snowy weather and all.