Walking in New Zealand – Mt Cook & the Routeburn Track

Thursday, 12 March 2015

I don’t have the best of luck with New Zealand walking. Walking in Nepal the weather has always been beautiful for me. In England I’ve had some miserable days between the sunny ones. In New Zealand they always seem to turn the rain on when I arrive.

IMG_9555 - Mueller Hut - 540▲ The final steps to Mueller Hut

Well not at Mt Cook where the weather was superb. With my two walking companions we did a helicopter flight up and around Mt Cook, landing on the upper reaches of the Tasman Glacier, before we got down to serious walking. No way were we planning to climb Mt Cook, but we did intend to walk up to Mueller Hut and spend the night there and catch dawn over New Zealand’s iconic mountain.

IMG_9635 - Earland Falls - 270

We started with endless series of steps up to the twin ponds known as the Tarns, but on the next stretch, which involves lots of rock scrambling en route to the ridge line, one of my friends’ troublesome knee started to get really troublesome and he had to turn back. I carried on up to the hut for a quick look, but then turned round and returned. So no Mt Cook dawn although I did get plenty of exercise, cramming two days planned walking into one.

My friend’s knee recovered for the three day Routeburn Track walk, but days one and two featured lots of rain. You can capitalise that LOTS for day two when waterfalls all multiplied in size, new ones fell down where they’re not normally seen and in places it was easy to mistake the trail for a fast running stream. You waded more than walked.

◄ Earland Falls on the first day of the Routeburn Track, with lots of rain

IMG_9669 - 1963 deaths - 540▲ Soon after leaving the Lake Mackenzie Lodge for day two of the walk you pass this memorial to a 1963 disaster. The two school kids were caught out in a mid-summer snowstorm, in the southern hemisphere 19 December is pretty much as middle-of-the-summer as you can get. Back in 1963 there were none of the well-equipped huts and shelters you find along the trail today.

IMG_9683 - Harris Saddle to Routeburn Falls - 540IMG_9696 - Routeburn Day 2 - path underwater - 270▲ Further along the trail, between our Harris Saddle lunch stop and the Routeburn Falls stop for the night the rain was falling steadily as we traversed above Lake Harris.

◄ This is the trail, the underwater trail.

IMG_9708 - Roueburn Falls - 540▲ Next morning the sun was out on Routeburn Falls, right outside the lodge. The falls takes several leaps down the hillside before this final tumult.

IMG_9747 - canyoning - 540▲ A canyoning party we saw in the Routeburn River, as we followed the track for the last few hours to the conclusion at Road End.