The Sound of Winter (Part Two) – The Gertrude Valley

“On a Mish” #286 The Sound of Winter (Part Two). Gertrude Valley. Fiordland National Park. 5.10.2019. The cool crisp air on a winter morning is perfect for hiking. Layer up and get going is key, and if you are in the right location you will have a world glimmering in a frosty frozen state of stillness. Leave the complaints about the cold at home and you will see that early morning and cold isn’t as bad as some people say. You just need to find the safe places and then sit back and enjoy the sights and sounds of winter…

As Dylan and I made our way along the Milford Road to the Gertrude Saddle car park we began to see that with the beauty of late winter’s day in Fiordland comes the danger of avalanches. The Upper Hollyford section of the road was lined side to side with avalanche debris. Although the winter had been very cold it had still produced a large amount of snow which didn’t want to stay on the upper reaches of the mountains anymore. Seeing the valley in this state really shows why the area is stripped of any trees and only the toughest scrub survives around here.

We got to the Gertrude Saddle Track car park and within minutes of arriving we witnessed our first avalanche. This one was pouring off the north face of the Crosscuts(2263m), and from where we were it looked quite small but we didn’t want to go any closer to see if we were right or wrong about it’s size.

Now with the sun shining on the tips of the peaks we made our way up a very frozen Gertrude Valley, which hadn’t seen the light yet. As we passed the aptly named Psychopath Wall of Mt Talbot(2105m) the sun crept into the valley for the first time and the valley’s icy surface began to sparkle in the morning light.

At the valley’s head we began to climb and pushed on to the waterfalls up the well worn track. Beyond this point was ground we weren’t prepared for.

Above the waterfalls was a place the sun avoided during the winter making it still snow covered and very frozen. Tackling this part of the track without mountaineering equipment like an ice axe and crampons is a death wish, and knowing that people have met their fates in this area is a big enough reason for us to not travel any further.

We enjoyed brunch in the epic environment which was made even better by the small climb to the waterfalls, and from our vantage point we watched avalanches rain down on the other side of the valley.

Satisfied that we had gone as far up the trail as we could, we began the journey back to the car park.

The hike back was just as impressive. It is awesome how simply turning around and walking in the other direction can give you a completely different view, making it almost feel like a different track. The spectacular scenery made us both agree that coming here was definitely a good idea!

On the trip back we passed a few people who all asked about the conditions. We informed them of the dangers from above and the snowed over part of the track. Hopefully they took our advice and didn’t track any further than the waterfalls. If they didn’t want to listen to us then hopefully they heard the sounds of winter and that made them think twice about messing with Fiordland without the right equipment.

High Above the Gertrude Valley

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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