U-Pass and Beyond (Part 1) – Hut Creek to U-Pass

“On a Mish” #231 U-Pass & Beyond (Part 1). Hut Creek. Fiordland National Park. 26.4.2017. The size, mountainous nature, and heavy rain in Fiordland National Park means most of the incredible location is uninhabited by humans. Even in the modern era, many valleys remain undisturbed and peaceful, with birds being the only creatures breaking the silence. To venture to these remote places can be a serious undertaking even with the latest hiking and camping technology. And this means some places will go a very long time without the footprints of even the very motivated…

The northern reaches of New Zealand’s largest park are home to the biggest peaks, and the deepest glacial-carved valleys. Another common feature on maps of Fiordland is a ‘Pass’ or ‘Saddle’, a term usually used for low points between mountains that can be used to access the next valley. However, Fiordland has some of the deepest valleys on the planet, and many of these valley heads end with massive cliffs of scrub-covered granite. So, this means some of the passes on the map on lead to certain doom!

The Earl Mountains are a great place to test your passion for exploration on foot, and in a few places, it is possible to cross over from one valley to another (‘passes’ that actually lead somewhere!). Foot access to the Milford Track is via the alpine route of Dore Pass(1390m), and north of this is the increasingly more popular U-Pass(1395m). Connecting Mistake Creek and Hut Creek, the pass is a challenging and excellent adventure for the seasoned adventurer. Having been on missions into both Hut and Mistake Creek, it was time to have a crack at connecting the two valleys.

A small weather window fell perfectly on my and my partners days off, and the plan was to drive up the Milford Road in the afternoon. We planned to only hike some of the way and camp somewhere along the track. An early-ish start the next day was rewarded with a crisp and cloudless morning in paradise. The noise of the native birds in the area was to be the morning’s soundtrack, and in an area which was once near silent due to vermin, it is a special treat that many people would previously not have enjoyed.

After shaking off the late April frost our tent was packed away, and it was time to hike further. Our mission was to get to U-Pass Basin via Hut Creek (the standard U-Pass Route), then camp in the basin and explore the peaks and glacier above it.

A recently re-cut and re-marked track up Hut Creek made the going reasonably easy when compared with following a Fiordland Track after a major weather event. and within a few hours of solid hiking, we were looking up the gut leading to U-Pass. It was time to climb up to U-Pass and beyond…

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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