A Real Fiordland Adventure – Tent Flat (Part One)

“A Mish a Day” #27 Tent Flat – Part One. Moraine Creek. Fiordland National Park. 1.12.2009. With the purchase of the ‘Darran Mountains Climbing Guide’ a fascination with the area began. This is a place of stunning beauty that must be explored on foot to gain a real appreciation of the area’s remoteness. Places only a mountain ridge away might as well be 1000km away, for the cliffs leading to the top of the ridge are some of the most impressive on the planet. Access is difficult, and there is only one hut amongst the giants. This added to the mountain’s mystique, and long after buying the book I knew that I just had to go closer to the Darran Mountains than seeing them across the Hollyford Valley while guiding on the Routeburn Track

During a wet start to the summer guiding season, I and few of the other guides were getting restless on days off so a mission was a must. Knowing the Darran Mountains are where the big boys play, I didn’t want to take any risks on my first adventure into the range. Brent Ormsby, Takeshi Kominami and myself guided a trip together and during this we chatted about a camping trip to Tent Flat in the Moraine Creek area. The long days of December are great for missions, and after finishing a Routeburn trip we headed back into Fiordland. The car was packed and we headed to Deer Flat, on the Milford Road, for the night. We didn’t have the greatest forecast, as there was rain and drizzle for the next couple of days. A little bit of rain wasn’t enough to dampen our spirits, and we enjoyed our evening with the other campers deep in the Eglington Valley.

Early-ish the next morning we drove through the Divide (a place we had just been a few days before while guiding) before continuing on to the lower Hollyford and the start of the Moraine Creek Track. Drizzle and rain had been the theme for the summer, and the added water had the Hollyford River rumbling its way down towards Lake McKerrow. Before starting, we visited the Humboldt Falls viewpoint to see an awesome display of what happens when water meets gravity. The short trip to the falls was a warm up before starting the real mish, the Moraine Creek Track. ‘More rain’ is very fitting as nearly as soon as we started, the rain joined us for the trip. We crossed the Hollyford River on a very impressive swing bridge which leads straight into the wet bogs, wet tree roots and wet mosses that were the track from this point. Many people see the very inviting swingbridge, cross it, then turn back after a couple of meters on the rough Fiordland track. We got to the 3-wire bridge over Moraine Creek which was a wash of foaming white water. The track then tucks up under the cliffs on the true left of the valley and away from the constant rumble of Moraine Creek. The heavy rain and wind had caused a lot of track damage and route finding was tricky in some places. Heavy snow over the winter months had loaded the upper parts of the mountains, and at one stage the track crossed the mess of snow, rock, rubble and foliage all combining up as avalanche debris. We climbed into the Moraine Creek hanging valley and had to scramble around track damage on a very steep section of track. While we all carefully climbed up towards the next orange triangle the question was asked “How are we getting back down this section?”….

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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