The Sad Glacier (Part One) – Falls Creek

“On a Mish” #60 The Sad Glacier (Part One). Falls Creek. Fiordland National Park. 2.5.2018. We, the lucky few who live in the Te Anau Basin, live in one of the best places to access the wilderness on the planet. Easily the biggest reason I bought a house in Te Anau is its proximity to Fiordland and all the fun that comes with Fiordland missions. Less than an hour’s drive and I can be totally immersed in the mountains, and then after a wander I can usually find my own little private corner of the huge national park. On this mish not only did I find my own private valley, but I also managed to get to the head of the valley to see a very sad sight…

I’m always blown away by the sightseeing masterpiece that is the Milford Road and it’s marvelous surroundings. So many adventures begin from one of the small car parks somewhere along the 120km stretch of concrete. Over my years in the area, I have managed to slowly tick off each hike from the road and it was only a matter of time before I found myself at the start of the Falls Creek Track.

The Falls Creek Track is often mistaken for a hike to a lookout or viewing point, but it is far from what most road users are used to. The track begins with a steep, rough section which usually warns off (hopefully) any unaware, unprepared and un-geared for the adventure that awaits the few who force their way into the remote Fiordland valley.

When I arrived at the start of the track it was midday, and the Milford Road was busy with lots of tourist enjoying the superb weather. I got a few looks and the odd question as I was the only one with a hiking pack and camping gear. Soon I was the only one full stop as I left the masses beside the road and began the tough climb up into the valley.

Camp in Upper Falls Creek

After the initial uphill grunt, the going gradually leveled off, and after a few hours of ‘Orange Triangle Hunting’ I arrived in the deep and steep valley that is Falls Creek. It takes some time to get to the impressive stuff, but once there the sights will motivate you to travel further up the valley.

Unfortunately, just before the open riverbeds of the upper valley I took a wrong turn, which then led me into some rather difficult hiking. I followed a clearing (big mistake) which took me into some relentlessly thick sub-alpine scrub and bush. It was as if all the gnarly alpine plants had got together and decided that this was the best spot to grow in the valley! Pushing through this was a mission to say the least. I could see easy ground only a few hundred meters away, but between me and easier terrain was a tangle of tough going scrub. In classic Fiordland fashion, easy was only a stone through away, I just had to get there first.

After a very long hour in the bush, I finally got to the riverbed (where I should have been) and easily traveled up the valley. It had been a challenging tramp, and my legs could feel it. I got to an excellent flat spot where I finally threw my pack down and set up camp.

The cirque basin at the head of Falls Creek is an incredible spectacle to please the eyes. Made up of the massive Mountains Ngatimamoe(2164m), Pyramid(2295m), and Suter(2094m) make an impressive and dominating view. My tent was going to be happy with where I had got it to!

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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