Peace and Quiet – Gertrude Valley Camp (Part One)

“A Mish a Day” #147 Gertrude Valley Camp – Part One. Fiordland National Park. 2.2.2014. The vertical spectacle that is the mighty Darran Mountains in north west of Fiordland is something I really recommend to anybody who enjoys the opposite of flat. Every time I venture into the area I am blown away by the extreme uplift, along with signs of heavy glaciation during the many ice ages of the past. The place demands respect and unfortunately a few have met their untimely fate amongst the granite beasts of Southland’s most elevated area…

To add even more drama to an already very dramatic area, you will also have to deal with the notorious Fiordland weather when visiting the land of the giants. There are not many tracks into the Darran Mountains, and the hiking is usually very challenging due to the steep nature of the mountains. Also track maintenance can become challenging when avalanches wipe parts of the many valley floors clean, and avalanches occur each winter. Several huts have been built only to be removed in seconds by tons of snow and debris from an avalanche. Because of this most tracks in the range receive very little attention and are more routes than tracks.

However, for those who wish to wander the land and marvel at its beauty there is a track up to Gertrude Saddle(1410m). The Gertrude Saddle Track is a real must do if you are in the area and (hopefully) prepared for a mish. With half an afternoon plus the next day free I was after a quick fix camping trip, and after studying the map I found a small area that looked good for camping, well off the track through the valley, under the steep northern faces of Mount Crosscuts West(2203m) and Middle(2250m) peaks. Leaving work in Tuatapere on the Humpridge Track just after lunchtime gave me a chance to enjoy the stunning bluebird day as I made my way north towards Te Anau and the Milford Road. As dangerous as the Darran Mountains can be, they are nothing compared to the dangers faced when driving into Fiordland National Park on the Milford Road at the time when most tourists are making their way back out towards Te Anau. Wildly swerving to avoid ‘blind corner passing maniacs’ had become the norm, and always kept me on my toes when I dared to drive against the natural flow of the Milford Sound tourism stream. I got to the car park late afternoon and was surprised to see it near empty on such an awesome day. The first deep breath of air in the mountains will always flood my body with pre-mish excitement, and I was giggling with joy as I sorted my gear for my next adventure…

The last rays of the sun in the Gertrude Valley

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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