Surprisingly I didn't sleep well last night, and annoyingly people started getting up and packing at five - hours before dawn - someone was even using a very loud electric razor! I set off at eight thirty in a light drizzle. The first two hours were up a steep set of switchbacks climbing nearly two thousand feet to Mackinnon Pass. The panoramic views back down the valley toward Lake Mintaro were stunning (also a great excuse to stop and rest). As I approached the pass the drizzle graduated to rain and the icy winds made it seem as if it were raining sideways or even up! It was very cold. The pass is nearly four thousand feet (1,154 m) above sea level, unfortunately the low clouds made for poor visibility and you couldn't see the peaks that surrounded us. But the walls climbing away from us, and the glimpsed views down the valleys were exciting, and the clouds made everything seem closer and more intimate.
At the pass hut I put on every piece of synthetic clothing I had to try and stay warm. The weather seemed to be getting worse, so I didn't stay at the hut long, not wanting to be trapped on the exposed pass. The next two hours were steep down hill - very hard on my knees and feet. Mostly I was miserable and cold - except for when I'd get distracted by the hundreds of waterfalls cascading down the valley walls - then I'd forget to be miserable! The rain got heavier, I was drenched to the bone and my feet and knees were killing me so I opted against the extra two hours of hiking to see Southerland Falls. I did visit with a brown kiwi that was absolutely fearless. At first I thought he was begging, but it turned out that I was standing on top of something that he wanted to eat - he literally pulled things out from under my boots!
The last hour to the hut was especially miserable. I arrived at Dumpling hut at around 2:30 as cold as I've ever been in my life. Spent the evening huddled next to the wood stove and drinking hot water. When I got up to go to bed my bruised feet and the sharp pains in my knees really worried me - the eleven and a half miles tomorrow could be very unpleasant.