Twelve Years Later – Back on the Routeburn Track

“On a Mish” #275 Twelve Years Later. Key Summit. Fiordland National Park. 24.5.2021. A considerable amount of time had passed between visits to Key Summit on the Routeburn Track with my parents. Many years earlier was their idea for me to have a go at getting a guiding job on the Routeburn Track with Ultimate Hikes. The rest as they say is history. To head back to the track with my parents is a real eye opener to what has happened over the last couple of years. To say a lot has happened in that time is the understatement of the century!

After an unforgettable experience at the Bluff Oyster Festival we all headed north to my home in Te Anau, as Julie and Jeremy (aka my parents) had a few more days in the south before they had to return home to Christchurch. A much different trip to Te Anau for us than last time, as the last time we were all here it was just a passing visit before returning to Christchurch for more hip rehab.

Although nowhere near the amount of visitors than pre-covid, the stunning little town by the lake had a far stronger pulse than the last time we were all here together. A good sign of things very slowly returning to a new normal, and very good to see some money flowing through the businesses who are doing it tough at the moment.

With only two days available I knew one of those would involve an adventure in Fiordland. The only downside to that is working out which place to go in New Zealand’s largest national park!

Realising that it had been twelve years since we walked the famous Routeburn Track together as a family – and also realising that my mission to Sunny Creek (above the Routeburn Track) was my last mission before my accident – the plan was to hike up to Key Summit(918m).

An early-ish start had us on the Milford Road heading north towards the countless peaks which were shrouded in low cloud. Even after a few recent trips up the road I still can’t get used to how quiet the road is at the moment. From town to Eglington Flat we only saw one other car, so we had to stop and take in the sights and the fact that there were zero cars or coaches at the famous view point.

Near Lake Gunn we came across a vehicle with questionable driving skills, which immediately took us back to the days of tourist drivers. After taking the 45kph bends around the lake at 30kph, we finally got around the painfully slow obstacle and made for the Routeburn Track car park at the Divide.

Key Summit. A View that will Take Your Breath-Away

We drove into a near empty car park, which is a massive change from the usually chock a-block vehicle dump. As we started our hike we noticed this side of the Divide was clear of clouds, and that meant postcard quality views of the mighty Darran Mountains.

The cold isn’t kind on my hip, and it took a while to get into a rhythm but once I got going I used the motivation of better views higher up to get me up the mountain. We were constantly rewarded as we progressed along the track, and for the majority of the time we were hiking by ourselves.

The reasons why the track is one of the worlds best were blatantly obvious once up on Key Summit(918m). When we stood here together 12 years ago we could only see the plant life and not much else. On this occasion we had cloudless views of the snow-capped peaks in the area.

After a quick bite to eat we continued on, as the cold southerly wind was slicing its way through any so called ‘weatherproof layer’.

At the top Jeremy discovered he was transporting rocks from one part of the park to another – a trick I have played on him before, you’d think he’d know to keep a closer eye on his pack by now!

The cold air and downhill travel on the return journey made me grit my teeth with each painful step, but I’ll take a day looking at the Darran Mountains as an achievement and sign of my hip slowly improving. We passed a few people on the way down, and it was good to see other people enjoying the stunning scenery on display.

The drive back to Te Anau showed us we were on the right side of the country, as clouds covered the mountains surrounding the Eglington Valley. Twelve years later and the Routeburn Track is still incredible, and it was awesome to show my olds what was hiding behind the clouds all those years ago.

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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