Round Two with Dore Pass(1390m) – Part One

“A Mish a Day” #120 Round Two with Dore Pass(1390m) – Part One. Fiordland National Park. 21.1.2018. It has been said that Fiordland is a place for the waterproof explorer. Many times I have watched my days off approach just as a storm is due to hit the South Island’s jewel, Fiordland National Park. Along with the notorious weather you have the steepest country in New Zealand. Cliffs are commonplace and deep valleys are the norm. Before aircraft it was up to the brave to find what exists. The discovery of Mackinnon Pass(1069m) was so crucial for Piopiotahi / Milford Sound until the construction of the Homer Tunnel. As if trapped in a fortress, the Milford Track shared the same single route remoteness problem until the discovery of Dore Pass(1390m)…

I have always considered the Milford Track more of an ‘Experience’ than just another traditional hike. Most will get to the tranquil waters of the Clinton River, and the start of the track, by traveling to the north end of Lake Te Anau on a boat to Glade Wharf, and then beginning the hike from there. The ‘Standard’ way to get to the start of the track is definitely the easiest, and the unique views of the Fiordland mountains from Lake Te Anau are outstanding. There is another way to access the Milford Track, and that’s from the Eglington Valley, via a challenging alpine pass through the rugged and steep Earl Mountains. Once just another forest-clad valley, the Eglington became the busiest part of Fiordland as soon as road construction began to carve a route straight up the middle. Before then it was only legends like William Grave and Jack Dore who dared to enter the jungles of Northern Fiordland. The discovery of a route up the Clinton Valley and into the Arthur Valley (the Milford Track) became an instant tourist icon, and many have enjoyed the adventure up and over MacKinnon Pass(1069m). Apart from traveling up Lake Te Anau on a boat, there was only one other difficult way to access the start of the track. The better alternative access way was discovered more than 20 years after the track was established through the Clinton Valley. For those who like a tough tramping challenge, Dore Pass(1390m) offers so much more than just an alternative access to the start of the Milford Track.

The challenges begin immediately from the car park on the Milford Road, with the crossing of the Eglington River, which WILL become impassable after any kind of Fiordland rain. After the boots are immediately soaked, the hike then continues across the open tussock fields of the Eglington Valley, as you make your way towards the forest at the base of Largs Peak(1707m). The Eglington Valley really needs to be appreciated from the western side before entering the forest. The views of the Livingston Mountains are impressive, along with the fact that you are on the quiet side of the valley away from the busy road. Once in the forest the track begins to climb, in order to reach the hanging valley of the Murcott Burn. This was my third time to the area, and each time the bird noise and sightings of rare birds such as Mohua (Yellowhead) has increased, and I was lucky to see some and hear their distinctive call. After exiting the forest in the upper valley, you will now know if you’re going over the pass or turning back, as the area can be engulfed in cloud, taking visibility to low levels. On one occasion, we arrived at a complete white out at this point, and after about an hour of blind navigation through the cloud we were forced to turn back before things got out of our control…

Looking up the Murcott Burn at Dore Pass(1390m)

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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