Hopeless Hut – Sunset Saddle – Lake Angelus

27-29 Nov 2022

It was noon on the Sunday as our four braved a rainy day to go 20km along Lake Rotoiti’s Lakeside Track, past Coldwater Hut and up to Hopeless Hut, a 400m steady climb from the lake. Arriving at 7:45, we didn’t have to go in the hut to get the impression that it was already occupied because an array of shoes and boots was strewn outside the door. An adventure-racing group of eight teens from Motueka High, a parent and an outdoor instructor were there. It wasn’t hopeless because the hut now has an annex which can sleep people on its bare floor. The ten quickly made space for us oldies and we were able to cook on the table and dined as darkness fell. We each got to sleep on one of the six bunks, though the mattresses seemed to suffer from creaky noises every time we moved. Bill, as usual, was first up in the morning to witness a fine day and we set off at 7:30am as the teens were slowly emerging from their slumber and the outdoor instructor was shaking the water off his tent. The “Mot” team departed at 8:30.

Up-valley, forest gave way to scrub and then scree. Our four didn’t go far enough to catch the zig-zag up the scree, so had to do a long diagonal to get above the cascades that drain from the first tarn. Where finding the right route is vital, we found useful cairns. Bill and Wendy had ice-axes to handle the soft snow we encountered. Raymond and Kerry used walking poles. As we left the first tarn the racy teen team arrived. Climbing on snow and boulders with no vegetation in sight we made our way past some nice tarns and reached the 1890m Sunset Saddle at noon. Nearby 2075m Angelus Peak is easily climbed in good conditions, not today. By this time mist had descended but we could see Hinapouri Tarn. Our four were now following well-trodden snow prints left by the Mot people, down rock and slushy snow on snow-grass.

We arrived at Angelus Hut by 2pm to greet the teen team and relax. For the teens it was just a snack stop. They headed off for the road-end along Robert Ridge in mist and a cold wind! The hut filled to ¾ capacity over the afternoon. Two of the visitors were a young Japanese honeymoon couple, so Raymond was able to converse with them. The hut was still in winter mode, with no sinks available and water came from the lake, so “boil water” signs were prominent. Bill used the snow shovel to clear the deck of 4cm of snow.

During the afternoon the lake view kept changing as mists swirled. We were pleased we’d booked a $30 hut bed and not a $15 tent site. Our crew was one of the first up in the morning and got away at 7:30. The Japanese couple wanted to go with us because they were unsure what snow or track conditions they might encounter. They were slower to get ready, so said they’d manage without us. The descent to Speargrass Hut took us over 2½ hours, then 3 hours got us to the Mt Robert Road car park. Bill and Raymond had gone ahead to walk a few kilometres to the lakeside car park to get the car, so Wendy and Kerry didn’t have to wait long. The Japanese couple arrived in good time and were pleased they’d taken the Speargrass route, rather than the ridge track.

A stop at Murchison allowed us to eat decadent food and drink tea or coffee. Emerging from the cafe, we were surprised at how warm the day was, and our drive home was in nor-west conditions. This was a memorable trip in the company of Bill and Wendy Templeton, Raymond Ford and Kerry Moore, with the bonus of meeting interesting people and seeing great snow-covered landscapes. [KM]

We arrive at Hopeless Creek in light rain

Packing to leave Hopeless Hut on a fine Monday morning

Looking to Angelus Peak from the first tarn, still 1.3km short of the saddle, off at the top left.