Let’s Go This Way (Part One) – Emily Pass(1607m)

“On a Mish” #96 Let’s Go This Way – Part One. Emily Pass(1607m). Lake MacKenzie Basin. Fiordland National Park. 17.4.2012. The brave dare to do something different, and for some this carves their names into the history books or even onto the maps of the area. A long time ago a brave young lady told her guide that they should attempt to walk over a small gap in the mountains above Lake MacKenzie and the small pass that they climbed over has now become a must-do for those who enjoy a spectacular view…

The sight of the Routeburn Valley – which takes in the bulky masses of mounts Somnus(2293m) and Momus(2148m), and even as far as the western side of Pikirakatahi / Mt Earnslaw(2830m) from the top of Emily Pass(1607m) – is definitely logged in my head as one of my top five mountain vistas of all time. On the Lake MacKenzie side of the pass is a wind and avalanche swept, barren and remote rocky world, nothing like the well groomed Routeburn Track that exists below. Yellows, greys and the dirty white of the odd patch of old snow give the area the look and feeling that humans don’t belong here. Once over the pass and onto the Routeburn Valley side the alpine yellows and greys change to shades greens and blues, with the lush forests and clear rivers of the valley adding the colour that was missing from the elevated world above.

I was lucky to have a head start on the pass, as during 2012 I was working as a Lodge Manager while Lake Mackenzie Lodge was upgraded with the team of builders renovating the lodge. My role was to feed the team and keep the lodge clean, meaning I had spare time during the day or when the clients showed up, and a huge backyard to go play in. To say I was lucky would be an understatement, and the role will go down as one of the best jobs I have ever had!

During the early stages, late in the hiking season, whenever the guided clients showed up the builders would down tools and I would go on a mission. I would also have some free time in the mornings after the hikers had left the lodge. One crisp and clear morning I left the comforts of Lake MacKenzie Lodge early-ish and quickly made my way past the hum of activity at the Lake MacKenzie DoC Hut. After the hut I made my way passed the mini golf course / DoC Campsite (if you have seen it you will know what I mean!), and then on to the north east end of the lake, where the real mish began. From the top of the lake the track disappears into the riverbed that makes its way down from the pass and into Lake MacKenzie, a small creek that becomes impassable after heavy rain. Once in the creekbed I was rock hopping my way up the small valley towards my goal. Above the creek was smaller and easier rocks, and this meant I could move upward much faster.

The view back to Lake MacKenzie and Fiordland beyond, with the mighty Darran Mountains dominating the skyline, is an excellent sight early in the morning, and was the ideal motivation boost to keep me going up towards the Pass…

The reward waiting at the top of Emily Pass(1607m)

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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