The Forbidden Kingdom (Part Two) – Winter at Lake MacKenzie

“On a Mish “ #232 The Forbidden Kingdom (Part Two). Winter at Lake MacKenzie. Fiordland National Park. 12.10.2012. It is a shame when you hear of fatalities in locations where you know there are many warnings advising you to not venture into what is a forbidden kingdom during winter. Beautiful locations like the Gertrude Valley, Cascade Saddle and the Routeburn Track have all had their unwanted fair share of deaths where the party has ventured out after going against advice. Mother nature is someone I wouldn’t mess with, and if you are foolish enough to test her, she just might send an avalanche or two your way just to show you who’s boss in the outdoors…

During one afternoon at the Lake Mackenzie Lodge the weather took a turn. The lodge builders had been very lucky with the conditions, and this meant they had been able to get ahead of the building schedule. This would change when winter showed up.

After outdoor jobs became indoor jobs, the increasingly cooler day finished, and the team got a chance to warm up. While we had our dinner the rain, sleet, and hail, turned to snow, and the snow started to come down in buckets full. I had trouble sleeping that night because I knew I would be waking up in a place much different to the one I went to sleep in.

By early-ish the next morning the Lake Mackenzie Basin was blanketed in the white stuff. My normal routine first thing was to turn the generators on, and this would be when the outside world was dark. Even though I couldn’t see much, what I could see pleased me!

The Darran Mountains from near Lake Mackenzie

While we enjoyed breakfast, light introduced us to how white it was in Fiordland. The lodge / worksite was a much different beast, and the head builder was aware from experience about working in snow. After warm food it was winter workwear on with the first task of being stomping trenches around the buildings so the guys could work. Their incredible luck with the weather was over and now they had to deal with winter and it’s snowy payload.

The amount of snow that fell was easily enough to get the avalanche danger up, and for the first couple of days after the snowfall I stayed low and away from any potential danger. We had about 40cm to 50cm of fresh snow down at the lake level so it would have been very deep on the higher parts of the track. Not only would there be avalanche danger, but travel would be very slow a difficult with the snow waist deep in places.

Since our return we hadn’t seen another soul in the area, and now thanks to the snow we didn’t think anyone would be hiking the track for a long time. After smashing down an epic hot lunch in a place near void of any warmth, I headed down to Lake Mackenzie to soak in the white environment. The thick snow meant an airy peace in the basin, I was the only one there and the scenery made me wish there were more people around to see the sights. To my surprise I got what I asked for. On the way back to the lodge I heard voices break the silence, and I then bumped into a group of three young Australian fellas who looked like they had just hiked through hell…

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

Subscribe To my newsletter