Thursday, March 24, 2011

What? It rains here?

I didn’t realize until I got to New Zealand that many native walkers consider the Routeburn Track a finer walk than the infinitely better known Milford. I’ve never walked the Milford, and comparisons interest me less and less as I get older, but the three days of the Routeburn are pretty fine.



It offers more sustained challenge as a walk, because, unlike the Tasman and the Kepler, the track was built and is maintained by muscle and hand tools. So it was a little more familiar feeling to most of us. (Not that we didn’t appreciate being able to waltz along the other trails gaping at flora and fauna with no chance of a pratfall).

The Routeburn also offers terrific scenery and views. Climbing up from Divide on the first day, we had magnificent alpine scenery off our left shoulders, and steep terrain off our right. We eventually achieved the base of  Earland Falls.

video

More ups, then a steepish down to Mackenzie Hut. The water at MacKenzie Lake was the coldest of the trip. It was dive in fast or not at all, and I think I now have permanent goose bumps on various parts of my body. It was summer there, wasn’t it?

We set out the next morning sullenly, in rain gear. We’d been amazingly fortunate with the weather, and had come to feel we deserved sunshine and blue skies. View potential is high on this walk, but we missed out, because this was the only day of our entire trip when the weather closed in on us a bit. Predictions called for steady rain, though all we got was drizzle and mist. Most of us stripped off to one extent or another, some of us down to our usual shorts and tees. It was a very fine walk across the Hollyford face toward Harris Saddle, almost all above treeline, and we knew Martins Bay and the Tasman Sea were out there somewhere. Gave ’em a wave. 

At windy Harris Saddle, we stopped for lunch and got some wind layers back on.

video

The shelter on the left is for independent walkers. It’s a very nice version of what it is—a place to get safely out of the wind, rain, cold, snow, sleet, or whatever else the universe is hurling at you. The other is for guided groups. “Tea, madam?” “May I press your anorak, sir?” Behind the shelters is Conical Hill, which has a famed 360° view. Unfortunately, there was no chance of seeing anything from there on this day, so we passed it by. Not sure if its naming is connected in any way to the eminence of similar title near Loch Lomond.

At Harris Saddle, we crossed from Fiordland National Park to Mount Aspiring National Park. I’ll drop you here for awhile and let you wander around. Just don’t try to sneak your plebean self into that palace on the right!

3 comments:

Phreerunner said...

Mark, you missed a gem by the weather preventing you from getting to the top of Conical Hill. Sue and I spent some time there. Here's our take on the Routeburn:
http://phreerunner.blogspot.com/2008/02/friday-1-to-monday-4-february-2008.html

Mark Alvarez said...

Thanks, Martin. Not experiencing the view from Conical Hill was the only box we didn’t tick on the three walks. Relatively little desecration on the Routeburn compared to the other others, though we also noticed big sacks of stone dropped off by copter.

Phreerunner said...

It sounds as if you had a great time, even if you missed Conical Hill, which is nothing like its Lomond namesake.
We enjoyed a trip to Nelson Lakes, despite a bit of rain and some other minor annoyances that you may recognise. I have no regrets about choosing that in preference to the Milford Track.
http://phreerunner.blogspot.com/2008/02/thursday-friday-14th-15th-february-2008.html