The Rest Day (Part One) – Livingstone / Cascade Creek Saddle

“On a Mish” #336 The Rest Day (Part One). Greenstone Valley Track to Steele Creek Lodge. Fiordland National Park / Greenstone Conservation Area. 5.1.2011. To get the views you must work for it, or hire a helicopter. Climbing mountains is a win win because you not only gain fitness by charging up the side of a mountain, but also (if the weather is on your side) you get fantastic views the higher you go. Your effort will be rewarded, and the more effort you put in to get higher up. When hiking the Greenstone Valley on the ‘Grand Traverse’ not only will you get to see the beautiful valley from ground level, but the guides will show you the valley from above…

When working for Ultimate Hikes I guided people up to a point on the Livingstone Mountain Range and got to enjoy seeing fellow adventurers soaking in the epic rewards of their climb up to the Livingstone / Cascade Creek Saddle.

Personally I think the Grand Traverse is the best product that Ultimate Hikes have on offer. Starting at Greenstone Station on the western shores of Lake Wakatipu, the Greenstone Valley Track makes its way into a valley very important to early Maori in the area.

The name is due to the valley being a route through to the Hollyford Valley via the Greenstone Saddle(698m). And once down in the Hollyford Valley a long walk would take them to the coast at Martins Bay. As big as that mission is they weren’t there just yet. From the bay it was a rather dangerous voyage down the Fiordland Coast to Piopiotahi / Milford Sound and once there they would collect their valuable prize (huge blocks of Pounamu / Greenstone), and turn around to make the incredible journey back to where they came from in reverse with the added weight of the pounamu. I would love to see someone attempt this journey today!

The Greenstone Valley was the ‘road, trail, path or track’ north to get you back to civilization. Over hundreds of years thousands of kilograms of Pounamu / Greenstone were carried up and over the Greenstone Saddle(698m) as they headed back to their villages on the coasts far from the Fiordland area we know today.

You can feel the rich ancient history in the valley as you retrace their footsteps on the Grand Traverse.

Steele Creek Lodge and the Greenstone Valley

The 6 all-included day hike takes you not only on the Greenstone Valley Track, where you forge a way towards the west coast. But also three days on the world famous Routeburn Track which takes you back to a point close to where you started. Adding in the Routeburn Track really tops off the mish but before you get your boots on the Routeburn you must venture up and soak in the impressive surroundings of the Greenstone Valley.

The long stretch of rare flat grassy ground is still an active high country station (which recently had Takahe released into it!), and the station is still run the old fashion way which is on horseback. Seeing a horseback muster in action is like watching a cowboy movie from the past. A modern day rustler wearing their full length Oilskin ‘Dry-as-a-bone’ jacket takes you back to the days before noisy technology.

Stop number one is at Steel Creek Lodge, deep in the heart of the valley. It is at this lodge that the guided party get to know each other and their guides plus a better idea of what is ahead of them.

An early-ish start from Steel Creek takes you deeper into the Greenstone Conservation Area and towards Fiordland National Park. In places you get a glimpse of the giants that wait for you in Fiordland and the first sight of the stunning Mt Christina(2474m). The steep spike of rock and ice occupies the head of the valley like a beacon drawing you towards your next comfortable lodge at Lake McKellar.

Lake McKellar Lodge is a very special place nestled amongst the many green leaves of a dense beech forest and alongside the meandering beginnings of the Greenstone River. It is a lodge you could spend a week at but for us it is two nights. The two night stay means you have a ‘rest day’ and this means that on your ‘day off’ you have the opportunity to climb up into the mountains towards the Livingstone / Cascade Creek Saddle…

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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