This is the Lake Waikeremoana track on the North East coast of the North Island. It is a region that is wild and beautiful and the track travels along a high ridgeline around the lake with a series of backcountry huts that trampers (hikers) can use to overnight.
We were there in summer and attempted the track in a clockwise direction, starting at Onepoto - I understand that most people travel anti-clockwise and I can understand why (now).
The first leg from this direction involves a steep climb of around 500m (1600 feet) to a final altitude of 1100 metres (3600 feet). In the right weather conditions this can help things chill down nicely and the day we set of it was overcast and drizzling lightly - not much to worry about.
Halfway up the ridge we were battling driving torrential rain, temperatures below 10 degrees (and this in the middle of summer) and visibility of less than 30 metres - we were pretty much right in the middle of the Long White Cloud at this point.
The water was turning the track into a chute and I slipped and rode it down a number of times. I was soaked and all my wet weather precautions for my back had been good for naught and everything in there was wet - and heavy.
I probably should have gone down the ridge at this point but I was keen not to been seen as the 'shirker' (yes, there were girls present) and so we pressed on. The last 100 metres climb was pure hell, I had long ago stopped shivering and was just wanting to crawl under one of the logs along the track and go to sleep.
Fortunately the others in my party recognised that I was probably hypothermic and so they kept me going until we got to the Panekiri hut. There were only two other trampers so there was plenty of room, but some idiot had stuffed things up the stove chimney (to keep the wind out) and it was all jammed tight.
I was bundled into a sleeping bag and I am SURE that I heard discussion among the girls about one of them climbing in with me to warm me up but I don't actually remember that happening - and believe me at 18 a little hypothermia is worth it for that prize!
The weather closed in for the next three days and we stayed put and ate our way through our track foods. Conversations with the other trampers who came through indicated that for most this was the last stop - apparently it is much easier to negotiate the steep ridge in a DOWNHILL direction without the 4-days supply of food that we were carrying UPHILL.
If I ever take the Junior Grendels on this trek I know just which way we'll be travelling!