“A Mish a day” #122 Gertrude Saddle(1410m). Fiordland National Park. 12.3.2019. When a couple of the fellas showed up and said lets go for a walk, I’m sure none of us could have predicted how epic a simple day hike could turn in to a very damp Gertrude Saddle epic!
Dylan and Tom showed up early-ish to my house in Te Anau one morning in March, and after finding out that Tom had never been to the top of Gertrude Saddle(1410m), we were in the car and on the Milford Road heading north. There had been plenty of heavy rain overnight, and we had caught the end of the storm, as with window wipers on we drove into the Eglington Valley, over The Divide(532m), and then into the Upper Hollyford Valley. The Gertrude Saddle car park was empty(as expected) and we ready ourselves for a day of wet feet and mountain related hi-jinx. The very first part of our mission was to cross a waist deep area of water, which completely submerged a bridge which was built to cross the water! From here we were in and out of the swollen river until the climb began at the head of the short valley, the whole time with the valley rumbling with the sound of the hundreds of temporary waterfalls. After crossing the river at the base of one of the bigger waterfalls on the route, we climbed up to and onto the exposed rock-slabs below the fixed cables. Here we needed to trust the natural grip of the Darran Mountain Granite, and avoid the areas of extremely slippery running water. I choose a more direct and steeper route, through the bluffs above the normal route, but the bros declined the more extreme route for the standard route up the cables beside Black Lake. From here we were treated to some sun, which added extra boost for the last climb above Black Lake through the maze of boulders to the saddle.
Once on the saddle the views of Piopiotahi/Milford Sound and the surrounding mountains were as mind blowing as the first time I visited the area back in 2009, and the weather cleared just enough for perfect pictures of the mighty Darran Mountain Range. After a good stop to take in the epic scenery, we began the trip back down past Black Lake, and over the now dry rock-slabs, which were so treacherous only an hour or so before. At the base of the slabs we ran into the first people we had seen all day, and we informed them of the conditions above, and to not take any unnecessary risks on the very slippery terrain. From here we passed a few more groups of hikers as we got closer to the car park, and unfortunately for them the cloud returned to swallowed the mountains, and remove any chance of a view from the top. For us our trip was nearly over and it was incredible how much the water had dropped in the lower reaches of the valley, except for one spot… the waist deep section over the useless bridge!!