In the Footsteps of William Grave (Part Three) – De Lambert Falls(59m)

“On a Mish” #94 In the Footsteps of William Grave (Part Three). De Lambert Falls(59m). Fiordland National Park. 6.3.2014. I’m guessing that if you love rugby you picture yourself as your favourite professional player when you take to the field. I kind of do the same when heading out on a mish. Before each of my outings I usually research the area and find out about the ventures of the first explorers to the very same locations I am wanting to get to. Back in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s there weren’t any professional explorers, but there was a very determined school teacher whose outdoor antics have cemented his name into the Fiordland history books. Now I’m no rugby player, but I am a keen Fiordland explorer, so instead of following Richie onto the rugby field I am much happier following in the footsteps of William Grave…

I got to my planned destination of De Lambert Falls(59m) mid morning and the place was much, much better than expected. And I had expected epic!

My head start the day before meant I was where I needed to be with most of the day still left to play with. I explored the area and discovered the site of the old hut. What a spot for a mountain shelter! It is such a shame that the hut was obliterated by a winter avalanche. However, knowing what winter snow can do makes you realise that it is rather risky placing a shelter in the path of the rush of rock and snow. It wouldn’t be a very good day in the mountains if you were chilling at a hut and then the hut was removed from the face of the earth!

The bluebird day was just perfect for hanging out in paradise. The afternoon was a hot one, so I spent the time swimming in the very refreshing (bloody cold!) small lake at the base of the falls. After a good swim around I lapped up the sunshine on a large, heated rock with a stunning view back down the valley.

Slowly time crept on and a day without a single cloud turned into a visual spectacle with stars so bright I could almost see them through the material of my tent. I went to sleep with a smile ear to ear that night.

An early-ish start was needed the next day to first get out of the Esperance Valley back to my car waiting patiently on the Milford Road. Then there was the drive back to Queenstown dodging random rental cars the entire way.

It was hard to walk away from the beauty of the area, as the day was once again clear with no wind, but all good things must come to an end and I reluctantly packed up my camp.

As I made my way back down the Esperance Valley I was blown away by how big some of the individual rocks were in the dry river bed. A few of the rocks would have been as big as a 50 seat bus. The massive blocks must have made an almighty crash when they tumbled down from somewhere above the valley. It is best to not look up when thinking about these things!

After passing the historic rock cairn I got back down to the marked section of the track with no issues. Although it is a marked track it is still Fiordland and to say anything is easy here (apart from sitting in a coach or car).this sentence doesn’t make sense And speaking of vehicles, I knew my hike was nearly over when I started hearing buses’ exhausts braking their way down the steeper sections of the Milford Road as they made their way towards Piopiotahi.

Even with some of the route marked with orange triangles the hike was still a good challenge, and it really made me appreciate William Grave’s hard work and dedication. When he stepped into this wild world there wasn’t a single plastic triangle in sight. The difficulties are matched by the stunning scenery and it is very fitting that this remote track bears Grave’s name. The track and the pass high above the Milford Road will ensure that this Fiordland legend’s name will live on forever amongst the mountains he loved so much…

Mt Underwood from Piopiotahi / Milford Sound

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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