Double Crossing of Mt Thomas into the Pinchgut Hut, June 8 – 9, 2019
We tried to do this trip the previous weekend but the snow on the ridge was 700mm deep and very stiff so difficult to make steps in. Also saplings and boughs were laden with snow, some frozen lower down the track. We had to crawl through a tunnel of bent over saplings at a couple of points. While going up following footsteps, we noticed their veering off into untracked terrain. I carried on plugging steps up to the ridgeline where we halted to layer up, including putting on our overtrousers. While Frank was putting on his parka with frozen fingers I tediously plugged steps to the sign at the junction of Track 2 and the track to Mt Thomas.
It was very cold so was good feedback for the condition of our gear. Frank had some holes in his gloves which are high maintenance. He wore a $2 poncho up the hill over his pack once we struck the laden snow. This was a great idea that I wished I’d copied as the snow was immediately shed whereas in my case, some lodged between my pack and the back of my hooded head. I was concerned about my body warmth melting it, causing dampness.
At the bushline we were both a bit damp though our plastic-booted feet were lovely and dry and warm. After my brief recce I decided we would need to can the idea of walking into the Pinchgut Hut and return the way we came. I came back to Frank to discuss this and found he had come to the same conclusion after mulling over the prospect of only being able to travel slowly due to needing to step plug and further crawling through tunnels of bent over saplings. We counted our blessings for a good day’s exercise carrying weekend packs up the hill.
We had a very successful and pleasant trip this time round. Once we got on the ridge we saw a party had plugged steps in the deep snow that had stalled me the weekend before. The snow had subsided from about 700mm to 400mm over the week with settling. It was deeper a little further along the ridge. We wondered how many people were in the party and surmised there were 3 but certainly no more than 4 so we'd be OK getting a bunk in the 7 person hut. After a while I could only see 2 patterns of boot prints which were identical. I thought there was a third smaller set of footprints and so did Frank but then I couldn't see this variant after some distance. It's hard to tell as some people (especially me) like to use the person in front's plugged steps to save energy. I even do this on sand or soft ground.
We had a bit of weak sun to sit and have our lunch in on the way over and then coming down from Whare Spur and nearly at the hut I spied a big dead manuka which Frank manoeuvred so that the crown was uphill and I could drag 'the trophy' downhill to the hut for firewood. Frank grabbed smaller stuff too. We noted the fire was going which was our hope as it's nice to walk into a warm hut on a chilling down evening. When I got to the hut and started chatting with the 2 guys in there, noting their South African accents, I asked one if they'd been the same party we'd followed down 2 years before. That time he'd had his 12 year old son with him. And he said he was the same guy! He had a S.A buddy with him. They were good company.
What was interesting especially was when they had their dinner they cooked up a humungous amount of bacon and scoffed this with a lot of nuts and cranberry mix. It turns out they'd been on the Intermittent Fasting/Ketogenic regime for 9 months and had lost quite a bit of weight each. One said he'd wished he'd started it 20 years before. He'd always struggled with his weight all his life. They felt so much better with having the long daily break (from dinner time until dinner time) from having to digest their food. I asked if they got constipated but they said they ate a heap of greens (kale, broccoli etc.) and no longer had issues with their gut such as that. I said if their diet was of a consistent pattern, the gut bacteria populations would flourish and stabilize so things would be more stable in that aspect.
They did a bit of cheating with the meal but had walked in over 6 and a half hours on no food at all. I noted the sweet (sugar-fortified) cranberries and then one pulled out a special treat - a Snickers bar. The bacon was quite sweet too - honey cured. They offered me some when I absent-mindedly informed Frank I was still hungry after our Back Country Cuisine/vermicelli meal. It was delicious (so sweet!).
Being big boys still, there was constant snoring from one but the ear plugs made it OK. They got up and had coffee (with sugar and milk) and packed up and trotted up the hill again. The one who hadn't done much tramping bikes from Pegasus (by Woodend) to Chch every day. It takes him an hour. And that's with no brekkie. I said having autoimmune thyroiditis excludes me from carbohydrate/calorie restriction as it transforms the storage form of the thyroid hormone (T4) into an unusable form (Reverse T3) of thyroid hormone instead of the usable form (T3). This is what is happening when dieters plateau so dieters should cycle their caloric restriction, not practise a daily pattern e.g. 2:5 IF.
They took a handsaw with them to saw up the wood to good effect. Frank also took in his bow saw and immediately on arrival didn't come into the hut but set to, sawing up wood. So there was plenty cut up for the next party. The S.A.'s had emptied out the wood stove - a full bucket of ashes was there. In the morning after they left I tidied up the hut and took out some rubbish e.g. 2 spoons for our kitchen at work and a lid as one of my lids has broken. Tidying up, I found a wee stuff sack which is perfect and a $1 coin as well. I took out an empty can but left the 3 glass bottles.
We had a nice walk up the hill again. I had to adapt my technical skin-layer top into a bandeau as it was too sunny. When we stopped for lunch at a nice spot, I whipped off the top to dry it out in the sun and sunbathed topless. No one around. Pretty good for June! By the time we got to the highest point, the NW was building up a bit but there was an easterly wind at lower levels which was apparent as bonfires were smoking away on the plains. My latest thing is to make a brew when we get to the car as Frank takes longer to organize himself for the ride home so there's time for me to do this. I can have the stove going in the boot where it is relatively sheltered.
It took us an hour less to hoof it down the hill compared with the previous weekend. And it was a lot faster going up the hill with the snow gone from the lower canopy. I was glad I had released the pinned down boughs the previous weekend as this enabled the saplings to resume their usual upright posture. I think the footsteps from the previous weekend had maybe gone off the track following deer prints. In all a satisfying pleasant weekend with good company and good to achieve the objective this time.