Day 209: Bushline to Angelus Hut

Trip Start Sep 21, 2006
Trip End Jun 01, 2007

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Flag of New Zealand  ,
Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A strip of deep red indicates the dawn above St Arnaud. Frost sparkles on the tussock. A pair of kea squawk and fly through the valley. I set off in no particular hurry through a copse and along the Pinchgut Track. The gravelled path soon reaches above the treeline. A quick frost has lifted the top layer of soil by inches. It crunches underfoot. The rapid freeze and thaw up here adds to the erosion of the pathways by nudging the soil downhill.
The Robert Ridge is bare with little green. Goldfinches peck at the cushioned yet hardy colonies of plants that coat the rocks. These white-green blossoms are comically named 'vegetable sheep'.
A biting wind blows from the west. A nest of huts, a former ski station, sits in the valley; the skiers have been herded out of the national park.
The trail gets lost as it becomes a scramble over a slip of rocks. In shaded areas there are patches of snow. Stepping over these frosty rocks is treacherous.
Suddenly, over a ridge, I spy Angelus Hut, nested beside a deep emerald lake, sheltered from the wind in a crater. I zigzag down to the base. A shovel is kept in a pipe above the hut door for winter when heavy snows can smother the entrance or even blanket the entire hut.
In any season it's an idyllic setting but one that attracts too many trampers to keep it tranquil today. Timing has given me a perfect weather forecast but also delivered a guided group of a dozen American trampers who dominate the hut, filling it to brimming.
I find the solitude I seek by heading for the nearest high peak - Mt Angelus - patterned with snow at its crown. The path upwards disappears and I have to find my own route over loose rocks. I approach the summit from two directions but come up against a wall and have to give up as there are only a couple more hours till the sun dips behind the range. I choose a worse route down and have to cling to the grassy banks to avoid slipping into the chill waters of a tarn below. When I'm not careful speargrass stabs at my hands.
Back at the hut starlight  picks out the crinkled surface of the frosted lake. I'll tackle another peak tomorrow.
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