The biggest nuisance for me with lockdown was not being able to go tramping. The weather through March and April was warm and sunny, perfect weather for exploring the alpine tops before the winter snows began. But it wasn't to be, since tramping was considered high risk due to the possibility of needing to be rescued by others, thus breaking bubbles.
At Level 2 we were once again able to head out into the Kiwi bush, although distancing was still important, and hut occupancy was set at half usual. I'm unsure how many trampers adhered to the guidelines, but for my first mission I was camping anyway. There weren't any huts!
I drove up the Matukituki Valley and parked at Cameron Flat. On went the Crocs, because the first mission was to cross the river. It was only shin deep at most, but icy cold, so on the far bank I took my time drying my feet and putting my socks and boots on. Then, through farmland for a few kms before hitting the national park boundary at Glacier Burn.
The track then follows the east branch of the Matukituki River all the way to it's source at Rabbit Pass. I was only going as far as Junction Flat, although my initial plan had been to head up to Albert Burn Pass and climb Dragonfly Peak. But the terrain got the better of me.
I hadn't exactly been all that active over lockdown, and the track was a lot more technical than I had expected, with a number of boulder climbs and slightly gnarly creek crossings to negotiate. Nothing I couldn't handle, but it took me much longer than expected to get to Junction Flat, and I was a bit tired when I got there. I looked up at where I had planned to tramp to, and decided to pitch my tent in the trees at Junction Flat instead. I had a late lunch and enjoyed a lazy few hours reading before the sun left the valley and the cold kicked in. I snuggled up in my sleeping bag, enjoying the comfort of my new sleeping mat (my old one began to delaminate on the GOW), and enjoyed a cosy night.
Quite a few people had passed by whilst I was at Junction Flat, and the next morning I met them all again as they began their walk back out. They had all walked in to Aspiring Flat, either camping on the Kitchener Valley floor and waking to a thick frost, or staying at the Rock of Ages shelter. I, however, didn't have a frost encrusted tent, and got to walk the track in to Aspiring Flat and have the entire valley to myself.
The Kitchener Glacier adorns the eastern face of Mount Aspiring, and is a glorious thing to behold. Yes, the water was bracingly cold and the river had to be crossed multiple times to make one's way up the valley, but that's part of the adventure. This time the boots stayed on.
Again I had lunch in the sun and then made my home at the rock shelter for the night. The sun left the valley pretty early, so I collected firewood and made myself comfy up at the shelter for another long cold night. I was toasty warm, but the resident mouse climbing over me in the night didn't make for undisturbed sleep.
Next morning I headed back down the valley to Junction Flat, and then followed the Matukituki down to the car. The boots came off for the final river crossing because my feet really needed that cold icy soak after all those hours of plodding.
It was nice to be out tramping again. No, it was bloody brilliant!!!