Less Effort Just as Epic (Part One) – Upper Cleddau Camping

“On a Mish” #313 Less Effort Just as Epic (Part One). Upper Cleddau Valley. Fiordland National Park. 15.12.2021. From the instant I first saw the mountains of Northern Fiordland I knew it was the beginning of a long and highly enjoyable relationship. The place very quickly became my most sought after, and time and time again I would drive from far away to get a taste of the alpine feast on offer. Not once have I left disappointed or unsatisfied, and the entire time I am on a mish I have a smile stretched ear to ear…

A recent climb above Dore Pass(1390m), near the Milford Track, had worn my broken body down. The last couple of hours of the adventure was a harsh reminder of the damage done to my hip and back by a fridge door in 2020. I needed something with less effort but somehow was just as epic, it’s a good thing I have Fiordland on my back doorstep.

The sun looked like it was going to come out on my days off and I’m not one to let the opportunity of clear weather in the mountains of Northern Fiordland (especially in the Darran Mountains) pass me by. So, I got my act together and gathered my gear for a mind-relaxing mountain mission.

I knew that I couldn’t go far due to hip pain from my last mish, so my plan was to head to the historic Cleddau River Bridge near the Grave / Talbot Pass Route on the Milford Road. From there I was going to cross the bridge and follow the old track (before the road was built) to Piopiotahi Milford Sound, to a spot where I could pitch my tent and chill in paradise with Te Namu.

I made my way along the Milford Road and everything was falling into place. The sun was shining and many times during the trip to the start of my walk I was driving alone on one of the best roads on the planet. Covid didn’t help the tourism industry much, but it did give us opportunities to experience places without tons of people around.

While waiting by myself at the Homer Tunnel entrance I got out of my car (while the tunnel entrance timer kept me waiting) and enjoyed the wonder of the Upper Hollyford Valley. A small village was once abuzz here with workers hacking away at the rock during the tunnel’s construction in this location. On this day it was just me and the sound of the many waterfalls cascading down the steep walls of the upper valley.

Green light, time to go underground and into the inside of the mighty Darran Range. 1.2km later I burst out of the tunnel and into the sunlight of the Upper Cleddau Valley. It is a bit of a mission to drive as well as take in the incredible scenery. I zigzagged down into the forest below the tunnel, and it wasn’t long before I was pulling up at the start of the Grave / Talbot Route and the beginning of my short wander to a campsite.

I was ready to go but unfortunately, I was stopped dead in my tracks by a ‘Track Closed’ sign at the start of the track to the old Cleddau River Bridge. Not in the plan and now I needed a plan B. After a quick think I came up with the plan of heading into the valley below Mt McPherson(1931m) Cirque, but as I drove back up the Cleddau Valley a rocky gut which led to a small flat spot caught my attention…

The Cleddau Valley

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

Subscribe To my newsletter