Another Great Walk (Part Two) – The Kepler Track

“On a Mish” #169 Another Great Walk (Part Two). The Kepler Track. Fiordland National Park. 5.5.2010. The Kepler Track was opened in 1988, making it much younger than its Great Walk friends like the Routeburn and Milford Tracks. By connecting several Kepler Mountain Range routes, the track was constructed to ease the pressure on the other tracks (Great Walks) in the area, and the well-constructed walkway has become more than just another Great Walk. I had spent a couple of years visiting Te Anau while on route to tramp the Routeburn Track, and after another busy season on the track it was finally time to add the Kepler Track to the list of hikes hiked….

Due to work commitments during the summer, we were walking the track outside of the normal hiking season. This means the track’s huts and campsites are cheaper than when the weather is ‘more favourable’ for hiking. Even though it was post-summer the track was busy with hikers and the huts were going to be full each night. So because of this we hit the track early-ish, and getting to the hut before most would become a trend on this mish.

When Lake Te Anau is at its normal height, it is possible to walk on the gravel beaches instead of using the track which is located up away from the lake’s edge. Not long after starting our Kepler mish my father and I came across the lake. The trail of orange markers went into the lake, which was now in the forest thanks to its swelling after a summer full of rainy days. In places it was waist deep and after submerging ourselves in the murky depths we quickly realized it was bloody cold! It was a refreshing start to our Kepler Track adventure.

Eventually we got our soaking selves to Brod Bay, which is where the track turns away from the lake and is also the sight of a great Māori battle. If the beech forest could talk it would have some tales to tell.

After getting away from the lake we had a chance to dry out a bit. Thankfully we would be making our way towards the tops which were much dryer, but also very soaked from the constant rain. At one point we had stopped for a drink and a huge branch broke away from a tree and came crashing down around five metres away from us. At first, we marvelled at the tremendous crash, then we quickly started looking around at other branches that could potentially come crashing down. The drinks break ended right there and then, and our pace quickened until we had climbed away from the bigger trees in the forest.

The climb up towards Mt Luxmore warmed us, and hiking in the lake was now a distant memory. After a solid climb we got above the forest and out into the open tops. It was here that we faced a new challenge, snow. Even though we had left early-ish we didn’t beat the afternoon weather. The forecast was for a late change and the chance of snow, and the change was early, and the chance was now a reality. We pushed on and after getting to Luxmore Hut we both admitted we should have stopped and put on extra layers, but stubbornness got the better of both of us.

After getting to the very comfortable Luxmore Hut we changed into dry clothes and warmed up by the fire. We caught up with the Hut’s Ranger and handed over our tickets. It is awesome having someone there who is making sure everyone is ok, and in the worst-case scenario help is at hand.

As the hikers began to trickle into the hut, we started to learn about an older couple who were doing it tough while heading up the hill to the hut. As the afternoon became evening and darkness began to creep into the area the concern for the couple began to grow…

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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