• Jenny

days 53-56 St Arnaud to Boyle part 2

Day 53 ~ Walked : 7km, ~ Start: West Sabine hut ~ End: blue lake hut (km 2009)

There was heavy rain forecast for today so we had planned for this to be a short day - 3 hours to the next hut. So we had a leisurely lie in while everyone else bustled around and got away earlier.

The rain only started after our first hour and was fairly light to start with. We could see the snowy peaks around us and had the gushing thunderous river along side us the whole trip.


Once the rain set in and we started to get wet and a little cold we were wishing the hut would hurry up.

Sheltering from the rain for a minute

I think maybe the TA notes are a bit off as it ended up taking closer to 4 hours (which the DOC sign had actually said). So that brought us down from the high of finishing early yesterday.


I was hoping for a break in the rain over the afternoon so I could get a good look and photos of the famous blue lake. It has the highest clarity and visibility of any natural water body in the world at 70-80m.


But the rain was heavy for the rest of the day. So we spent the afternoon getting the fire going and tending to it. We had a better selection of wood and fireplace here than the last time so hopefully our clothes aren’t going to be so smoke infested. It was great having Karans company here again too.


Blue lake hut in the rain and gloom

Day 54 ~ Walked: 16km, ~ Start: Blue lake hut ~ End: Waiau hut (km 2025)

Today was expected to be the second hardest day on the whole trail after the day on the Rintouls in the Richmonds, so we were hoping for perfect weather. Our departure from st Arnaud was timed so that this day had the best weather conditions. Unfortunately the more up to date forecasts I was getting from dad indicated there was still 8mm of rain due on top of the previous days 53mm. We were seriously considering waiting it out for one day for better conditions as the forecast was for improvement. All this agonising over the weather and we woke to the most perfect day.

Blue lake hut on a glorious morning - the difference a day makes

Completely clear sky and still. A bit frosty but we were at over 1000m at the hut. We all decided to go for it and leave early to make the most of it before those 8mm of rain came.


First up we got to see the beautiful Blue Lake that was less than 100m from the cabin but we didn’t venture to in the hideous weather of the previous day.




Next it was up to, then alongside Lake Constance.


It was a very steep climb up loose scree and down equally steep rocky tracks over a bluff alongside the lake.


The track went lakeside for a while and even in the lake which I’m guessing is due to it being extra full from the recent rain and snow melt.


A nice walk through a grassy valley before the real climb up to the pass.


That was hard going but the view was so good I had to keep stopping to take photos (or perhaps really a rest).


There was a bit of snow up to the pass but we picked our way around it and followed in Karans footsteps when we had to go through it. It was deepish in places but thankfully not icy.



At the top of the pass when we saw how snowed in it was on the other side we decided to stop for an early lunch while we had dry ground to sit on. It was actually quite pleasant for 1870m elevation.

Going down the thick snow on the other side was nerve wracking. Mainly due to the steepness of it. It still wasn’t icy but we slid on it easily anyway. I was worried about triggering an avalanche and it engulfing Karan who was ahead of us on the track, as little snowballs went rolling down with most steps.

South side before it got very steep

Finally we got out of the snow and descended into a pretty valley.


But it turned out to be a false valley just like the false summits. We had another little steep bit alongside some crashing waterfalls before hitting the true valley.


The TA notes about the last 8km were very brief so I mistakenly took that to mean the track was straight forward which is what you want coming out of 7 ish hours of treacherous mountain climbing. All the notes said was “The track follows the Waiau River down and stays mostly on the true right”. I should have picked up on that word ‘mostly’. We were in for a whole bunch of river crossings. And with the rain we’d had they ranged from average scary to very scary.

They were on a par with the motueka river we had issues with in the Richmonds. These ones weren’t as swiftly flowing as we could just get our poles in although they shuddered horribly with the force. But they were worse in that they were deeper. We were up to hip height in places. We put our linking techniques into play and even backed out of one to retry at another spot, to be as safe as possible. Even the side crossings had the same issues. In fact our worst crossing was in the very meek sounding Caroline Creek.

Happy to have made it across safely - wet from waist up are splashes

Each time the path got into a spot of beech forest I was praying for the remainder of the track to be like that with just your regular little challenges like fallen logs, tree roots and boggy patches. I’d well and truly used up my difficult challenge quota by this time.


But no, I’m sure those beech paths only lasted 100m or so and then it was out into another river crossing or big boulder field. And while I’m complaining, the markers were few and far between. Thank goodness for the numerous cairns that kind people have left showing the way.

We finally made it to the hut after 10.5 hours with great relief. We were pretty happy with that as the notes said 10-12 hours so we were semi prepared for it to be 12. And best of all the weather had been great. We only had a light sprinkle of rain in the last hour.

Relief to finally see the hut - that water is not usually there

Karan was there already and had blitzed it in only 6.5 hours. Amazing. And to have coped with those rivers crossings alone too. We were hoping he’d have the fire going when we’d arrived as I’d given him lessons the night before. He’d had semi success but it’s always hard going with damp wood. We actually didn’t need it as the hut was newish so well insulated and nice and warm.

Once we’d reached the safety of the hut I could summarise the day as super hard work but super rewarding.

Day 55 ~ Walked: 26km, ~ Start: Waiau hut ~ End: Anne hut (km 2051)


A big day km wise today but the trail notes promised as easy track. I didn’t quite know if that was to be trusted though. Thankfully it turned out to be so.


We pretty much followed the valley down then took a right turn into another valley. They were big wide open grassy plains and very reminiscent of the safari parks we visited in Africa. Thankfully no predatory animals around though. Just an abundance of Canadian geese.



There was one major river crossing mentioned- the Ada river. We were very hopeful and relaxed about it as the Waiau river was so much calmer than yesterday and all the stream crossings were no more than knee deep.

Calm Waiau river

Sure enough we were even able to cross the Ada easily enough individually. And then once we were onto the St James track there was even a bridge across the river!!



As always a joy to see the hut come into sight. A very flash new 20 bed hut too.

Anne hut in the distance like little house on the prairie

A bit sad Karan has finally moved ahead of us after 9 nights on the same schedule. Just to be clear he would have moved on much sooner if there was an earlier weather window for waiau pass. He literally only does half days to our full days! Although we did share the hut with a couple of St James walkers. One in particular was an avid hunter and although not hunting on this trip was out with his binoculars to see what was out there. He found two stags and a hind all in quite separate spots. He called me out each time to watch them. It really did feel like an African safari at that point.

Day 56 ~ Walked: 29km, ~ Start: Anne hut ~ End: Boyle Village (km 2080)

An even bigger km day today for us as we decided to push through to Boyle for a return to civilisation. More specifically a real bed, real food, a hot shower and wifi. We got up and left extra early (away at 6-20) as we needed to be sure to get into Boyle before 5pm when the office of where we were to stay shut. And also to collect our next supply box from them.


It’s a great time to be walking that early; nice and cool and we ticked off a good few km without even realising it. The dewy grass did a good job of wetting our feet as much as the rivers did though.

The best thing about the early start was seeing more deer. Twice we came across a pair grazing until we startled them and they scarpered back into the forest. The Canadian geese were just as abundant in this section. One family was trying to escape us but kept walking on the track. Finally where the track neared the cliff edge mum and dad flew down to the river and the little goslings jumped off the cliff. I couldn’t see if they survived or not but I guess that could help with the culling if they didn’t.


The track was the St James trail today and was a very easy and well maintained track. Through a bit of open grassland, but mostly very pleasant beech forest.

It was a joy hearing the rushing river waters without having that nagging feeling of dread about having to cross it at some point. There were plenty of bridges for every necessary crossing.


The high point of the Anne saddle with accompanying signage made us feel like we’d accomplished a great feat but it was really just like a regular unnamed hill on any of our previous days tracks.

Once we were over the saddle it was supposedly all downhill into Boyle. But there were a few nasty steep rises towards the end that we didn’t appreciate.

Finally we got into Boyle just after three. The last couple of hours were a real struggle as it had turned into a very hot day. But the reward was a hot shower and a few treats from our supply box (thanks dad).

Karan was still in Boyle mumching his way through the treats in his supply box so good to catch up with him again. We’re now taking a few days break in Hamner springs to rest and plan for the next section.


Day 53 ~ Walked : 7km, ~ Start: West Sabine hut ~ End: blue lake hut (km 2009)



Day 54 ~ Walked: 16km, ~ Start: Blue lake hut ~ End: Waiau hut (km 2025)


Day 55 ~ Walked: 26km, ~ Start: Waiau hut ~ End: Anne hut (km 2051)



Day 56 ~ Walked: 29km, ~ Start: Anne hut ~ End: Boyle Village (km 2080)



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