I Would Walk 500 Miles
Trip Start Sep 18, 2011
29Trip End Jun 01, 2012
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What I did
Day 1: Routeburn Start (Glenorchy side) to Lake Mackenzie (18k)
Jeff, Rachel, Chip and I headed out a day before the others since we all had (half) the day off. We made the mostly flat 7k walk through the Routeburn Valley to the first campsite, Routeburn Flats, just short of 2 hours. We pitched our tent and had a hot bevvie before bed. Just as we were hunkering into our sleeping bags we heard the gentle sound of rain on our tent. We could only hope this doesn't mean rain the next day...or the next...
The following day we met up with the rest of the group after they made their journey through the valley. The weather looked promising and we were stoked to all be together, to say the least! So like ants we marched our way up the steep section to Routeburn Falls Hut (an hour up). From here we were beginning to see fantastic views of the valley below which made us eager as to see what was beyond the hut and towards the saddle. As we rounded the corner, becoming more exposed on the trail, the ominous clouds were rolling in and the temperature quickly dropped. We zipped up our rain jackets and pulled out our hats and pack covers as we all sensed rain was in our foreseeable future. The situation may not seem ideal but quite possibly the highlight of the whole trip happened within this next hour of hiking. As the weather shifted from light rain to hail the conversation seemed to have ceased. No one had high hopes of pleasant weather at the top but we kept trudging up. As we reached one of the most beautiful sections of the trail it started to snow and everyone's mood shifted as if we hadn't seen snow in years. The mountain peaks rose up beside us, we had a view for miles below and with each step up we could see a beautiful blue alpine lake (Lake Harris) extending out in front of us
Thirty minutes later we found ourselves safe in the Harris Saddle Shelter (sitting on the border of Mt. Aspiring and Fiordland National Park) as it began to hail again. We ate lunch (lots of dehydrated food going on) and chatted again about our final approach up the ridge. We crossed paths with some gov'ment workers doing PR for the Routeburn and after the ladies posed for a few shots we hit the trail.
From the Harris Saddle Shelter we made our way around to the Hollyford face which to me felt like the most exposed part of the trail. When the sun wasn't shining there were periods of whipping wind plus more hail and rain. I was just hoping I wasn't going to get thrown off the track! We hiked for 3 more hours and by then everyone's feet were starting to ache (possible blisters forming) and around every bend we prayed for a lookout below with a hut. Finally we began to descend. Another beautiful lake appeared below (this one Lake Mackenzie) with the hut cozied up next to it
Day 2: Lake Mackenzie to Middle of Nowhere on Greenstone Track (25k)
Woke up this morning to birds chirping and mouse droppings on our tent. Happy we hid all our food in the tent because the mice were desperately trying steal it in the middle of the night. We got on the track around 10:15 am today (a bit later than planned) and made stops at Earland Falls to admire the waterfall, Howden Lake and hut for a lunch stop and then we veered from the Routeburn Track onto the Greenstone Track. After leaving the Routeburn the scenery changed and we were surrounded by the brightest green moss filled trees. This was the longest section of our hike and given its flatness lent itself to conversation. We passed time with the usual mix of random movie quotes, songs from the past, and plans for the future that tend to fill the void between pit stops. By 6pm our bodies were beginning to fatigue but we had to find the perfect camp spot. We ended up with 4 possible choices before finally choosing one another 2k further along the track. Everyone pitched their tents and circled up to begin making dinner as a group
Day 3: Middle of Nowhere to Road-End of Greenstone Track (17K)
We awoke literally inside of a cloud which had descended into the valley overnight; the combo of 100% humidity and morning chill made for a slow start. The goal was to hit the trail early as needed to make it to the Glenorchy Cafe (GYC) by 4:30 closing time. We quickly ate breakfast, packed up and were on the trail by 9:15am. The clouds eventually lifted to reveal much appreciated beautiful blue sky. Finally, we had a cloudless day of hiking!! Today we had the least distance to travel and thank goodness because I think everyone's feet were starting to take a beating.
A quick snip-it about the Greenstone Track: it's considered a low-altitude track which follows a wide, open valley edged by beech forest. Throughout our hike we follow and cross the crystal clear waters of the Greenstone River which are situated between the Ailsa Mountains (on left) and Livingstone and Thompson Mountains (on right). I was expecting this portion of our hike to be less appealing since we had just finished summiting the Routeburn the day before but the truth is the Greenstone is just as beautiful but for different reasons
Within the last hour of hiking I'd believe everyone was silently chanting GYC! GYC! (Glenorchy Cafe) But the best part of today was upon us! We came across a most beautiful turquoise swimming hole. We had to take advantage of this opportunity so a bunch of us threw off our clothes (yes, we kept on our skivvies) and took the plunge in the very cold waters. Although it was freezing it had to of been the most refreshing treat of the trip (besides the swiss fondue)! :) With spirits revived and stink somewhat abated we tossed on our packs and trekked the remaining hour out of the forest, over the swing bridge and down the last section of track leading to our cars.
The GYC did not have much to compete against given a few days of dehydrated meals but as usual did not disappoint. After a lazy lunch we hit the road one last time and made the quick jaunt back to the QT.
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Lin and Chip