The Kepler Track – Part 1

“A Mish a Day” #169 The Kepler Track – Part One. Fiordland National Park. 3.5.2010. Being possibly the closest ‘Great Walk’ to civilization doesn’t have any negative effect on an adventure on the Kepler Track. Built in the eighties to ease the congestion on the world famous Milford and Routeburn Tracks, the hike is an experience to rival its more famous counterparts. Over the Kepler Range from Lake Te Anau to Lake Manapouri and back, views are plentiful. Beech forest to alpine tussock and everything in between, the track incorporates all that Fiordland has to offer…

As a guide working on either the Milford Track or the Routeburn you are subjected to the stunning sights of Te Anau everytime you travel from Queenstown to the start of either track. Looking west, the view is dominated by the twin peaks of Mt Luxmore(1472m). The mountain plays a key part in the Kepler adventure as most of it has to be climbed on day one, and day two gives you the chance to stand atop the mighty mountain. I had just completed another season guiding on the Routeburn Track and the urge to use the fitness gained by hiking the Routeburn thirty odd times was high. Having looked up at Mt Luxmore(1472m) when visible on the trips put the Kepler Track on my mission radar. I managed to get my old man (Jeremy) along for the mish on the Kepler Track, and during the early stages of winter / tail of autumn we headed to Te Anau. The end of the guiding season was a wet one. Trip after trip involved heavy rain, and all the water falling from the sky had filled Lake Te Anau to a level much higher than normal. Most of the lake front walkway was under water, and I will never forget seeing a picnic table on the lakefront about 90% submerged. At no point did we think that this might seriously affect the first part of our hike. Early-ish on day one we drove to the control gates for Lake Te Anau, and from here it was hiking time.

Lake Te Anau

Our forecast was for afternoon showers so an early-ish start was definitely needed to avoid an afternoon soaking. To add more adventure to our mission the forecast mentioned a chance of snow to levels below our planned destination of Luxmore Hut. Not ones to let a little weather spoil our day, we set off on the track and started day one in sunshine. We had an event free hike for about an hour. The first challenge we faced was Lake Te Anau. The lake had swollen so much that it had engulfed a large section of what should be the track along the lake’s edge. Seeing the triangles on the trees that were now part of the lake was an eye opener to how full Lake Te Anau really was. We had no other option but to wade through the chilly water, at least the sun was shining at this point. After wading the lake for a couple of kilometers we finally got to Brod Bay where the track deviates away from the lake. As we began the climb away from the lake a huge branch suddenly broke off a beech tree and came crashing down to the forest floor about five meters away from us. At first this seemed like an exciting thing to witness, but very quickly we looked up at all the branches still attached to trees and wondered if any more of the forest was going to come crashing to the ground. After a good grunt up the track we arrived at the treeline, and as we did the dark clouds that were to our west in the morning were now upon us…

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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