Sunday morning we woke up in the tent which was totally covered with frost as the temperature during the night dropped down close to -8°C. Luckily for us, our sleeping bags stood this test without any problem and the only frozen parts of our bodies were our noses.
While we were cooking breakfast, the fog was lazily rolling over Lake Rotoiti and the sun beams slowly lighted up the hillsides around. It seemed that another beautiful day was ahead of us.
We’d planned to undertake the St Arnaud Range track. It started as a steady climb through beech forest but shortly changed to a tough steep ascent. The zigzag path seemed to be endless and the light shining through stunted trees always gave us the wishful thinking that we were close to the top.
Finally, when we passed at least the fiftieth bend, we got above the bushline and reached Parachutes Rocks after a few minutes. What a view! All that sweat and pant were absolutely worth it. The blue waters of Lake Rotoiti glittered beneath and the snowy tops of Robert ridge where we’d walked the previous day stretched in front of us.
After a short break, we carried on up to the ridge line. At first, we followed the path beaten in tussock but then, when it disappeared under the snow, we just followed the other hikers’ prints. As we were climbing up to the steep hill, I started to be a bit worried about how we would get back because some sections were pretty slippery. Moreover, we met a few really well-equipped hikers with crampons and ice axes who made the situation look even more serious.
As we were getting closer to the top, I was really excited what’s on the other side of the ridge. The last few meters and we got there! The other side revealed the snow-covered Wairau Valley with small lakes in its basins. The 360-degree view of surrounding area was spectacular with all the green and white hills rolling on the horizon.
Eventually, the way back wasn’t as bad as I’d thought and we got down without any problem. However, some people had decided that sliding the hill on their butts would be even “safer” way of descending. In the end, I was more worried about them than about us.
The next morning, we still had a half of the day before we had to head off back to Picton. We spent that time walking along the shore of the lake and in less than a couple of hours we reached Whiskey falls. This almost 40 meters high waterfall was hidden among the trees and ferns just a few meters beside the main track.
On the way back, we enjoyed the last few views over Lake Rotoiti but then it was time to pack all the stuff and set out back to Wellington.