Sabine Circuit (November 8th-12th)

Bags are packed and ready to go!

Started by Lake Rotoiti at the trail head


at the trailhead

Day 1: walked 17.3 miles (28 Kilometers), camped at 807 meters (2649 feet), 20 river crossings (5 of those with bridges), 11 am- 8:15 pm, stayed at the John Tait Hut

  • Max and I arrived at the trailhead about noon. We were dropped off by a very kind friend of someone from Pole. We were not keen on the hitch hiking idea so we decided to pay someone to drive us an hour from Nelson to get to the hike. We did not weigh our packs, but I would guess mine was 45-50 pounds (I will go into detail in a bit). We started off following the St. Arnaud ridge route, knowing that the trail was well marked we did not pay much attention. After 2 miles in we began to question ourselves since the map showed that we should be walking along a lake. It was not a good start… We got out the GPS and map, which showed us our mistake and then we continued on the day hike loop to get back on track. That added two miles to our already long day. Once we got on the right path it was slow walking, and I fell stepping down on wet roots, which gave me a gnarly bruise and a soar knee for the rest of the trip. Hard to get back into the grove of backpacking and the packs were already feeling heavy. We had a strict schedule in order to do the 4-7 day trek in 5 days. We skipped the first hut at 3 miles in and continued on to the second hut. The scenery was very beautiful and the sun was shining. We arrived to the John Tait hut as it was getting dark at 8 pm. There were three other people in the hut. We were very hungry and sore so we ate, drank hot beverages and went to bed.
    eels in the lake
    many bridges


Day 2: 4.17 miles (7 kilometers), climbed 510 meters, camped at 1,320 meters, 32 river crossings (4 with bridges), 10:30 am- 2:45 pm, stayed the night in the Upper Traverse Hut

  • We woke up, ate oatmeal and were on our way. It rained heavy for most of our hike. There was a lot of uphill and we were really sore from our packs and the long first day. We did not take any breaks and got to the next hut. We were so tired. The group of three were also at the next hut, plus another couple. That was November 9th, which was the day after election day. Everyone else was from Europe and were curious of our thoughts on the candidates. We had many good talks about politics and were eager to know, but were fairly curtain about who won. Just to confirm, Max got on his iridium GPS (that has texting with an app on your phone and tracking) and messaged his parents to find out who won. Because of the time change they did not respond until the next morning. It was a very shocking text to wake up to! I will not go into details since that is not what this blog is about, but it honestly made me very eager to get back to internet and find out details on what happened. So, looking back we should have just waited, but I was not prepared for that outcome.
    morning after our first night in the hut
    following directions
    One of the many river crossings! We made a great team helping each other get across without slipping on rocks and soaking our boots. I took the photos with the water smudges on the gopro, which also includes some of my thumb. It is a very wide lens!
    side view of the cabin before the summit

    two separate rooms for sleeping and this common room

Day 3: went back the way we came, so same distance as day 2, 11:30 am- 2 pm, stayed in the John Tait Hut(again)

  • We woke up and looked out the big windows to discover that the weather had still not cleared. And we could not even see the beautiful summit we had seen the night before. I was a little nervous because it was a very steep climb and even steeper downhill. The summit is known for its amazing views, so without the views and with the added danger of rain and a very slippery trail Max and I decided not to attempt the summit. I was a little embarrassed to tell the others, but from all my outdoor school I knew I had that gut feeling climbers often ignore that gets them in trouble. Turns out the other groups did not attempt either, and we all went to different huts the next night. Max and I decided to go back to the hut we stayed at the second night. We messaged our ride and asked her to come a day early so we would not just be sitting in a hut. We ended up having the hut to ourselves and spent the day drying out our clothes and enjoying the fire. I forgot to mention that it rained most of this day also.
    same hut for the first and third night


Day 4: 9.10 miles (15 Kilometers) , 10: 50 am- 3:08 pm, stayed in the Lakehead Hut

  • Took our time waiting out the rain, which never stopped, and left at 11 am to the first hut that we skipped on our way in. Our backpacks were getting lighter without so much food and since there was so much rain, we decided not to carry any extra water. At the hut, there was a guided group with two guides and three clients and a couple. The group was very nice and clients were from the US. They were very interested in our Antartica experience and of course we talked about Trump.
  • _dsc1416
    Our favorite water crossing. The bridge was not very sturdy and required both hands.


Day 5: 8 am- 11:30 pm 6 miles (about 10 kilometers)

  • Hiked out to meet our ride at the trail head. We really enjoyed the hike and were glad we did it. Although, we realized we were still pretty warn out from readjusting back to the real world and would have enjoyed a few more days relaxing before jumping into a difficult hike.

    We did it (kind of)!

From our hike we learned three things about tramping in New Zealand:

  1. The hiking times they tell you are very accurate. In the States when they say a hike will take 3 hours, Max and I would probably finish it in under two hours. On this hike, the trail sign said 4 hours and 30 min and it took us 4 hours and 45 min. We usually took the exact recommended time or even longer.
  2. Trust the huts- We each paid $90NZD ($63USD) for a 6 month hut pass and it was totally worth it! The hut passes can be used on most of the trails except for the Great Walk hikes. You can get individual hut tickets for single nights, but we were planning to do another hike in Queenstown so it was worth getting the pass. The huts contained an inclosed shelter, mattress pads, stove with fire wood, water (they recommend sterilizing, but guided tours did not sterilize and they were fine), nice kitchen area and dining table, and big windows with beautiful views. It was so great to be able to get out of our wet clothes and dry everything out. Where we went wrong was being extra cautious. We did not want to rely on the huts, so we brought our own stove, sleeping pads, tent, multiple GPSs, and bladder full of water. We probably each carried 20 pounds of stuff that we did not use/need. I would bring a stove since they do not guarantee firewood. One GPS was fine, but the trail was really well marked with blazes (markers on the trail) in sight in both directions.
  3. There is not much wildlife in The woods- I am used to looking out for cougars, bears, deer, wolves and other animals at home. Since NZ is a relatively new country they do not have any big predators. The only things we were warned about were possums and rats. We saw possum traps on the first few miles of the trek, but that was it. I was still looking over my shoulder when walking to the outhouses at night even though there was nothing to be scared of. It was nice not having to worry.

What we ate- I am not proud of this and my Outdoor leadership professors would judge me harshly, but…

Since we only had one day of prep time from our hotel room before leaving on the hike we were pretty desperate to find food for 5 days that we could rely on. Our food actually worked out really well except we got very tired of it all by the last day.

Food List for us- 5 cans of chicken (for me), 5 cans of tuna(for Max), two sleeves of crackers, oatmeal, luna bars, peanut M&Ms, dried apricots, almonds, pringles, freeze dried meals, plus lots of tea, hot chocolate, and Max carried 3 cans of Guiness (which he regretted carrying and drank the first 2 nights)

Breakfast: I had oatmeal and Max had luna bars

Lunch: we ate our chicken and tuna cans on crackers

Dinner: freeze dried meals, which were mostly pastas and curries

The rest were snacks, and all lasted until the last day. We gave three extra freeze dried meals to our driver since we were so tired of them.

The summit that we did not conquer. When we arrived at the hut near the summit we could see the top, but the next morning we could not see above the tree line.


Max and I are really enjoying being in Honolulu! More pictures soon and still pondering thoughts for my “processing the real world” post. I will start writing soon!

One comment

  1. Quite often it rains down there!! A real pity you didn’t have fine weather, but I am so glad you were not trapped in the earthquake zone. Just a day ago private vehicles were allowed to use the inland road to come out. A strict convoy, and only open for a few hours, then closed again. Warm water, swimming, surfing, that looks so good .Enjoy your time there. Cheers from a wet and windy place at our home in the North Island.


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