U-Pass & Beyond (Part 4) – U-Pass Basin to Milford Road

“On a Mish” #231 U-Pass & Beyond (Part 4). U-Pass Basin to Milford Road. Fiordland National Park. 28.4.2017. I have always been someone who get to a viewing spot or high point, and wanted to go further if there is more up left on the mountain. The allocated place to see might be good but imagine what the view would be like from up there. After an excellent wander up Mistake Creek, and then an adventurous climbing into U-Pass Basin my girlfriend and I had been left wanting more. So, after a couple of different missions we had returned the basin and once there we had then climbed above and beyond. We were now left with the task of getting back home to tell the tale…

As the day had gone on the sky slowly started to fill with cirrus clouds, and this was the sign of incoming rain. We knew we only had a couple of days of fine weather before rain returned to a place it is very well acquainted with.

I have never been a fan of down-climbing (not many people are!) and travelling back along the ridge was even more ‘exciting’ in reverse than it was going up. At least on the up you down must look at the down!

With our fingers fixed tight on to the rock we very slowly and very carefully lowered ourselves down each steep section of the ridge. Every now and then I would dislodge a stone and the hang time and distance it got with each bounce was a chilling reminder of what would happen if I slipped. After adding a few more rocks to the base of the cliffs on each side of the ridge we got off the gnarly stuff and back above the Faultline gut, which quickly took us back to the tent. We had just survived part one of our trip back to civilisation.

The plan from here was to down climb the waterfall which feeds into Mistake Creek, and camp in the valley below. Easier said than done. Having climbed up the true right (lefthand side if looking up from Mistake Creek) of the waterfall a few years earlier, we decided to investigate an apparent true left route.

What started as a scrambly route marked with rock cairns turned into a steep scrub-covered nightmare. The base of the waterfall and easy walking was only about twenty meters away, but to get there we had to overcome terrain we just didn’t have the energy to tackle. Fiordland is a place where you might be only meters from the ‘the way’ but it is hidden by an unforgiving environment.

Knowing we had got the route down to Mistake Creek wrong we climbed back up into U-Pass Basin and decided to camp in the exact same spot as the previous night. At least we knew it was a good spot!

A couple of hours before early-ish the next day we were up making our way in the dim early morning light back towards the distinctive U shape of U-Pass(1395m). The fine weather was becoming a memory, and in its place was a blood red sunrise warning us of the of inevitability of rain. And not just rain, but rain in Fiordland!

We retraced our steps from a few days ago back down the U-Pass gut and out onto the open flats of the Hut Creek Valley. Don’t let the name fool you as there is no hut in Hut Creek!

As we made my way through the flats of mid Hut Creek Valley the first drops of the storm began to flat. It is funny how you seem to find an extra gear when attempting to avoid the wet that comes with rain in the wilderness. The drizzle turned to rain surprisingly quickly and now it was just another day in Fiordland walking in the rain.

The beech forest in the lower part of the valley offered a small amount of shelter as the rain got heavier, and due to the numerous river crossings, we were glad the rain had only just begun to get heavy. We both breathed a sigh of relief once we got to and then across the 3-Wire bridge over the Eglinton River, near the Milford Road. The sounds of cars and buses snaps you out of the little world for two created by going to a remote location. It was awesome to get back to a place we both knew was high quality, and it was even better to then venture beyond and see how amazing it looked from above!

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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