After a hearty breakfast, I managed another early start to my tramping day, even more important today as I was to climb up to the top of the Panekire range. The range is between 500 and 600 metres above the lake level so I was looking forward to a good hard climb.
As forecast the weather had changed and just before setting off the rain had started. Dressed in full wet weather gear, I left the hut around 8am to start the climb.
The first section of the day's tramp passes thru rolling valleys in a forest of beech and podocarp. Along the way I spotted a couple of keruru high up in the trees. At some of the high points bits of snow lay around indicating the low temperature and the change in altitude. The plant life slowly begins to change as the track climbs higher and there is an almost alpine feel to the surrounding bush. The last kilometre before the bluff there is a steep 'straight-up' section, but at the end of this there is a welcome set of stairs to indicate that you are almost at the top.
As you climb upwards there are stunning views of the lake behind you and it's worth having a breather to admire them. The top of the range is reached in just over three hours from the hut.
Panekire hut is just another two hours along the undulating ridge. From the ridge there are fine views of not only the lake, but of the east coast and Pacific Ocean.
The hut is perched in an open area right on top of the ridge at the Pukatapu trig point
. When I arrived, I found the ground covered in a few inches of snow, a lovely setting for the hut. I was able to spot some splendid views of the lake too, although low cloud cover made them nothing more than fleeting glances. On a fine day there would be outstanding views from here.
The hut looks quite old and shows it in places. It has a gas heater situated in the centre of the kitchen area, but as with the other gas heaters seemed quite ineffectual once you were more than a couple of metres away from it, despite chucking out lots of heat when you were standing next to it!
That evening I settled down to my final dinner of the tramp and finished off the last of my merlot I had carefully transported along with me! The wind whistled around hut all night, but the gas heater did a good job of keeping me warm or was it the merlot?