My Own Great Walk – Beyond Key Summit (Part Two)

“On a Mish” #298 My Own Great Walk (Part Two). Peak 1086m (Key Summit Ridge). Routeburn Track. Fiordland National Park. 8.9.2021. Working in a job in New Zealand tourism means you get told how amazing ‘your office’ is on a daily basis. Then after those people leave the area they tell their friends about ‘your office’, and the cycle of visitors continues. I am positive that at least a couple of the clients on my 124 Routeburn Track guided walks have told people that Fiordland is a rather special place and worth a visit…

Over the years the number of people on one of New Zealand’s best Great Walks had increased to a point where more car parking needed to be added to cope with the influx of visitors. At its busiest you couldn’t go two minutes without seeing another happy hiker but luckily, like many of the other famous tourist locations around the world, the scenery will make up for the track congestion.

Now post 2021 lockdown with our borders closed I found myself wandering up the track to Key Summit totally alone, I had my own great walk!

I have always been a massive fan of snow and the way it can alter a landscape, so if you add in the factor that I am on one of my favourite tracks then the epicness is peaking at the highest level.

I hiked into a thin layer of snow on the track and at the Key Summit turnoff I knew I was in for an outstanding adventure. As soon as I got above the treeline the snow became much thicker, and it wasn’t long before my boots were disappearing under a layer of fresh fluffy powder.

Having knowledge of the track was vital as the boardwalks were buried in places, and to miss one would mean ending up knee deep in a chilly bog hole with a possible twisted ankle. With my focus on my feet I hiked higher up the track.

Key Summit wearing it’s winter coat

My goal was to continue beyond Key Summit to the first rocky peak on the long ridge behind the highest point of the Lake Marian Lookout track.

As I kicked away the snow on the track up to the lookout I began to get a sore face from my uncontrollable grin brought on by the stunning scenery. What a day to be out in the mountains and I was the only one out experiencing it!

With the clouds dancing amongst the giants of the Darran Mountains my eyes were pleased and wanted more, so after a quick snack stop at the view point I continued on towards Peak 1086m. The going was made easy as I followed the remains of the historic Whiskey Trail, which follows the ridge to the border of Southland above Lake McKellar, and in Otago via the Greenstone Valley.

After working out roughly where the track started I continued along the familiar and yet foreign (due to the heavy snow) ground.

Once again my knowledge of the track was crucial, as there are no track markings and the rock cairns dotted along the long exposed ridge are of no use when covered in snow. I was now in a location that was normally reasonably quiet and after my peaceful morning I was certain I would be the only person in the area…

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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