Day 3 - Windy Ridge to Kiaora
Home dried bircher muesli for breakfast (thanks for this idea Frank!
)... mmm... good... but don't overdo the water next time, and don't forget to add the home dried strawberries carried all this way!
It had snowed heavily again all night and there was now an even deeper layer of fresh snow on everything. But the cloud appeared to be thinning out and it looked like it was going to be a nice day with some indistinct glimpses of the DuCane Range through the cloud to the west. Before leaving the architectural marvel that is Bert Nichols Hut, Mrs Beach decided that she'd better try out the snow shoes in a controlled environment rather than trying to figure it out with cold fingers on rough terrain. So she spent a few minutes parading around the square flat patch of snow in the plain behind the hut which covered the helicopter pad. Satisfied with how to attach, remove and use the snow shoes, we strapped them back onto the pack and set out.
As we gained altitude through the rain forest up Windy Ridge towards DuCane Gap, the snow got deeper, and the forest was breathtakingly beautiful, as were the glimpses of the DuCane Range through the trees. Eventually the snow became deep enough that we thought we'd better try the snow shoes out for real, and we found the going a little easier for a while. It was touch and go though, with the shoes often getting tangled in vegetation or duck board, or simply sinking too deep into the soft snow.
We had lunch at DuCane hut (Paddy Hartnett's Hut), and again got ridiculously cold while doing so (the sun had been out for a while, but disappeared at lunch time, so we opted for inside). We pushed on as soon as we could after lunch, arriving at Kiaora Hut mid afternoon.
For much of the day, we'd been hearing the distant buzz of helicopters coming and going, and were wondering if they were searching for a lost bushwalker. The closer to Kiaora we got, the louder they became, until we saw one descend into the forest just ahead of us, a few minutes before we got to Kiaora. After removing our packs, the chopper took off again, then lowered into the forest a little further on, and then rose up again, circled around towards us and then landed on the snow-covered helipad right behind Kiaora Hut. After waiting for the rotors to stop, and for the pilot to disembark, I asked him if he was looking for anyone, but he said that he and a second helicopter were just re-supplying the private hut nearby. The other chopper was on the helipad there, so he was just going to wait here until the other chopper left and he could get on with the job at the private hut. So we had a good chat with him until he had to move on, and waved him off as he set off for the short trip of a couple of hundred metres to the private hut nearby.
I then fired up the coal heater using what remained of my firelighters, and got the hut reasonably warm for the evening. In fact it eventually got so warm that I had to strip down to just my thermals, and then down to just undies for a while. The thermometer on the wall (quite close to the heater) said 20°C. I hope I didn't waste too much coal.
Dinner was cous-cous with home dried veges, stock and tuna. Delicous.
Supper was a port night cap.