It was to be another two hut day - we were making good progress.
Andrew and Peter are only three or four days ahead, but according to the hut books, they have gear problems.
Trail rumour has it that one of their packs is buggered. They have heavy packs at the best of times, but a heavy broken one in the Richmonds would make life quite unpleasant...we imagine.
We spend a lot of time feeling sorry for them as we read of their torturous trail in hut books, but are less than secretly hoping we'll catch them up by the time we hit Queen Charlotte Sounds.
A reunion would be great.
Leaving Mid Wairoa Hut was a rude start to the day.
Across a slightly precarious bridge was a very long and steep climb.
The weather was dank again but the forest floor wasn't as much fun as it had been the day before. The morning was tiring and slightly depressing.
Whiona was still having a few stomach problems from the ibuprofen she'd been taking for her knees and I...just needed a bloody good feed.
Halfway lunch with Anna at Tarn Hut cheered us up, but it was over all to soon. As we left, the sign said our bed for the night was five hours away.
On we climbed. Through the forest and into the clouds. Occasionally we'd come out of the trees and find ourselves on a rugged outcrop that would usually have given us good views of Tasman Bay. But today we just had cloud.
Even though it was cold and dark, Bellbirds kept us company all the way to the alpine line. Large flocks of a small grey bird we'd never seen before flew noisily through the stunted Mountain Beech. Droplets of water hung from lichen that decorated the stunted trees like skeletal Christmas tinsel.
As we gained height our spirits lifted. The steep track flattened and we actually started to enjoy ourselves again.
We circled a mountain peak called Purple Top that is appropriately named after the purple rocks it's made of. Our visibility was often down to thirty metres. Occasionally we couldn't find the next pole. Once or twice it got so bad we couldn't see the pole we'd just walked past too.
It was like being back on the Ruahines or Tararuas.
Eventually we made our way down the mountain to Rintoul Hut, our Richmonds' mate Anna and an award ceremony.
Whiona was conferred a Super Trooper Medal made from paper and sticking plaster for her efforts under adverse intestinal conditions. I was awarded the Support Trooper Medal for following Whiona up several mountains with a slightly worried look on my face.
The ritual fire was lit. It was agreed that Anna had achieved her Fire Starter's Badge after several nights in the Richmonds. She had got so good that I wouldn't be surprised if she takes a Master's in Advanced Wilderness Ignition Theory at Oxford when she gets home.
Coffees were drunk. Food was wolfed.
As we relaxed we tried not to think too hard about work the next day. Our schedule included a five kilometre clamber over Mount Rintoul that apparently would take us six hours.
Track notes suggest that the entire day's trek could be up to eleven hours.
For pudding we all had a hot drink of strawberry instant pudding mixed with chocolate and milk powder. A pudding I'd pay good money for.
As the fire died out and the snoozing started, the mice came out to play.
It's taken them a while to catch us up, but they've finally found us. It's good to have them back.