Danny Yee >> Bushwalking & Travel >> Otago, Southland, Fiordland (New Zealand)

Gertrude Saddle + Key Summit

We left Hollyford Camp around 11.30 and stopped briefly at Fall Creek, so we didn't park the car and start walking till 12.30.

At first the valley that leads to Gertrude Saddle is open and the track is easy to follow. After going north away from the road, it turns away from the kilometre high rock faces to the east and north to head west, up a steepening scree slope and around several small waterfalls. Here the route is cairned, though in places there were several alternatives. This is probably the most dangerous section of the track, but there's no way to get lost, it's just unstable underfoot.


heading up Gertrude valley

looking back at the Milford road, dwarfed by the mountains


a speargrass weevil, Lyperobius montanus (cropped)

Black Lake

Milford Sound from Gertrude Saddle
At one point the mist came right down and I thought it might whiteout completely, but it then lifted and was pretty clear for the rest of the walk (at least on this side of the saddle).

We reached a spot where the track clearly went across a patch of ice, but Murielle and Camilla weren't happy about walking on that, so we went back down, crossed the creek, and went up some rock slabs instead. At one point it all seemed too difficult, with the others behind and the weather uncertain, but when Camilla caught up to and even went past me, I got a second wind and never looked back.

At the top of that section I found a giant weevil while waiting for the others. Murielle stopped there -- though she'd done rock-climbing, she was afraid of heights, and with her crook knee was worried about being able to get back down. Camilla and I crossed the creek and went up the first section with chains to Black Lake. I didn't find the chains at all necessary, with good grip on the rocks from my volleys (sandshoes), but Murielle and Camilla's boots weren't nearly so good for this kind of clambering.

Camilla stopped at Black Lake while I went on up to the saddle itself, a few hundred metres further on. There was not much of a view looking out the other side of that - Milford Sound could just be glimpsed through the mist.

It was slow going down, again, but uneventful. We picked up a woman hitching from Pass Creek to Hollyford Camp and got back there around 7pm.

After showering we started on dinner and were still having trouble with the stove smoking, so Murray himself came to look at it. He had no luck either, and the consensus was that the stove was broken. But my Gaz stove was still going fine and we had corned beef on bread, packet soup, and mushroom and corn risotto. We then sat around planning the rest of our trip, reading and writing while the rain became steadily heavier.

Friday 14th February

We left all the goods we didn't want - eggs, detergent, candles - with the caretaker. Breakfast was cornflakes, left over risotto, and fruit, and got away by 10.30.


Lake Marian from Key Summit
A busload of Japanese daytrippers turned up at the Divide just after we did, so we hurried to get going for Key Summit before they did. It was overcast, with showers and wind and the occasional patch of sun. At the top we wandered around the nature walk, looked at the views of the mountains and Lake Marian, and had lunch. I tried to photograph Hollyford Camp through binoculars. We went down to Howden Hut and Lake before returning to the car. The track very busy: there were lots of people doing the Routeburn as well as daytrippers.

We stopped again at the mirror lakes, though this time they were too windy to reflect the mountains. We dropped of Murielle in Te Anau, filled up with petrol, made a quick and fruitless attempt to book somewhere to stay that night, and set off for Queenstown.


Eyre Mountains
We took it easy, taking turns with the driving and stopping to photograph sheep, deer, mountains, and more - it was a more civilised landscape than Fiordland, but still pretty. We stopped for dinner in Athol, where I worked out why my right foot had been getting wet on the Key Summit walk - the sole had torn (the new model Dunlop Volley has stupid inserts which weaken the sole).

When we reached Lake Wakatipu at Kingston it was still light, so we could appreciate the scenic drive around the lake, under the Remarkables, as we approached Queenstown.

Next: Queenstown + Lake Dispute
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