“A Mish a Day” #218 (Part 1) My First Milford Trip. Fiordland National Park. 1.12.2010. Not many can say that they were paid to visit a tourism icon for the first time. This happened to me when a massive lifestyle change led to a job guiding people on arguably the best three days in the mountains (guided) that Aotearoa/New Zealand has to offer.
It is hard to beat the journey from the Milford Road to the shelter on the Routeburn Road, near the northern end of Lake Wakatipu. Forest, lakes, mountains, the Routeburn has it all, and in only three days of hiking. When I joined the the team of track guides the last of the old guard was about to leave, and the Milford and Routeburn teams were about to become a lot more intertwined. I know a lot of old school Routeburn Guides who still refer to the Milford Track as the “Dark Side” and are viciously loyal to the three (or six if including the Greenstone/Routeburn Grand Traverse) day hike through the mountains. For me, yes I will always be a staunch Routeburn Guide at heart, however I still do think the 4 days of hiking the Milford Track are gonna be some of the best days wandering in paradise of any hiker’s life. During my first year guiding on the Routeburn I wouldn’t even spare a second to think about guiding on the Milford Track, but as time went on my curiosity started to grow. The incredible view looking north west up the fiord, framed by the legendary towers of Mitre Peak(1683m) and the Glacial bulk of Mt Pembroke is a truly iconic image of New Zealand. So many people know the view, but have never witnessed it first hand, and I was one of those people for far too long. Another role as a guide with Ultimate Hikes was promoting the other trips on offer. Of course, with the Grand Traverse you encompass the Greenstone and Routeburn Tracks together (my personal favourite), but we promoted the Milford Track as well. During my second season on the track, the constant barrage of Milford Brochures in each lodge, or posters at the Ultimate Hikes Base in Queenstown started to get to me.
I had tasted the mighty peaks of the Darran Mountains in north west Fiordland on a mission into Moraine Creek in the Lower Hollyford, but over time I craved more. Not long after venturing up Moraine Creek, I asked if it was possible to guide a trip on the Milford. It turned out there was a chance, but just before the day came, I had to cover an injury to a guide on the Routeburn Track. The next season rolled around, and once again my chance to visit Milford Sound as a guide was foiled by the unfortunate sickness of a fellow Routeburn Guide. Now in my third season as a guide, it seemed that I would never get the opportunity to guide the famous Milford Track, until I got asked to cover a guide on the Milford. At first I took it as a joke, due to the missed opportunities of the past, but I was assured that this time it was for real….