Walking the Milford Track
Four days of tramping! Hah! I still get a kick out of that (‘tramping’); it sounds so much dirtier then just going hiking. Anyways, the Milford track is NZ’s most famous trail, and has been called the “finest walk in the world.” I would have to agree that it was spectacular. At 33.5 miles (53.5Km) it starts at the end of one of Lake Te Anau’s arms, winds up the Clinton Valley along the river’s edge, steeply climbs the Mackinnon Pass, and descends even steeper into the Aurther Valley, following the river again through the valley to an end in the Milford Sound. The first day is super easy with a nice boat ride, and then only 5km walk through Beech Forest to the Clinton Hut.
Day 1 – Lake Te Anau to Clinton Hut
I didn’t take many pictures on the first day because I forgot to charge my camera! WHOOPS! It was like having a film camera for the whole track – flashback!
Day 2 – Clinton Hut to Mintaro Hut
Another fairly easy walk, but quite a bit longer. I woke up early and decided to get a move on because the weather report called for rain. It was a steady and slow climb up a few hundred vertical meters over the 16.5Km. It’s the start of the season, so a lot of the track is still raw from the winter’s avalanches. There were quite a few rock fall areas too. Apparently, the Fiordland area grows vertically the same amount as our fingernails in one year, but due to all the erosion from rockfalls, snow, etc the seismic action doesn’t add any height to the peaks.
I made it to the Mintaro Hut just as it started to pour! Luckily I had managed to get through day 2 and remain mostly dry!
Day 3 – Mintaro Hut to Dumpling Hut via Mackinnon Pass
This is the grueling day. Mintaro Hut lies right at the base of the Pass, so it’s a 1.5hr – 2hr hike up 1000m, and then straight back down on the other side. It was a foggy and rainy morning, and as we got higher up the mountain the rain turned to snow.
There were a lot of Keas, a sort of alpine parrot, as we climbed higher. They’re very beautiful with green and red feathers, but they’re also a pain in the but. They’re super smart, and like to play tricks on hikers… I got through the pass unscathed, but one guy lost his camera!
The Pass is where the really beautiful views of the Clinton and Arthur Valleys are from. I was disappointed not to get to see them because of the crappy weather, but then it all changed! It’s so true how weather can turn so quickly when you’re that high in the mountains.
Day 3 – Dumpling Hut to Milford Sound
Last day on the track! A gentle (thank goodness!) descent from Dumpling Hut down the Arther Valley all the way to the river mouth at Milford Sound.
Te Anau gets about 2m of rain fall a year… Milford Sound gets about 8m. Every day you’re on the Milford Track increases the likelihood that you are going to get very very wet. It was a rainy morning, but actually started to lift mid morning.
It’s a funny thing down here, they tend to call streams ‘trails’ instead. I don’t know about you, but I’d just prefer if they were honest about it – you’re going to walk most of the Milford Track along stream beds. It’s hard to hold a grudge about wet feet when there is so much beauty to look at.