Lights in the Darkness (Part One) – Green Lake Hut

“On a Mish” #104 Lights in the Darkness (Part One). Green Lake Hut (Lake Monowai Route). Fiordland National Park. 12.10.2019. While out on missions I have bumped into many fellow adventurers, some experienced, some ‘not so’ experienced. Aotearoa is a place where all hikers can find a walk to their abilities. This means wilderness fun for all even if you are a complete novice, just make sure you pick the right hike to match your abilities. Because if you get it wrong you could be in for a rather interesting experience…

From the Borland Road the walk into Green Lake Hut is a pleasant undulating stroll through open meadows, beech forest and the odd boggy area. After overcoming the ups and downs the reward is the immaculate Green Lake and its recently upgraded backcountry hut. Most visit the area during summer as access via the Borland Road is much easier and the weather provides warmer temperatures, (which for some reason most people like more than the harsh chill of a winter’s day).

In winter the alpine section of the Borland Road is closed due to the threat of avalanches crashing down off Mt Burns(1645m) hitting the road below. So, this means the walk in from either the Borland or Lake Monowai Road is much, much (much) longer in distance. If you are still keen (like me) to get to Green Lake Hut when the road is closed there is an alternative way, via a saddle northeast of Mt Cuthbert(1248m).

I had never been to Green Lake Hut during my eight years of continuously visiting the Borland Road Area. I planned to finally head to the hut and lake that I had seen from high above on the Borland Saddle plenty of times. The weather forecast was one that would probably keep most out of the mountains, but as you can probably tell by now, I don’t mind hiking on a chilly day!

After saying goodbye to civilization, I drove to the Lake Monowai Road to begin my mish. I got to the start of the track over the Cuthbert Saddle with drizzly conditions overhead, which slowly turned to rain. The rain then got steadily heavier the further I hiked. A wet wander in Fiordland is very familiar and nothing to be upset over.

The first section of the track is reasonably flat over a series of terraces, a good way to warm up. Then after passing the track which runs alongside Lake Monowai to Rodgers Inlet Hut the real work begins with the climb to the saddle. It was when I was at this point that the rain eased a little. I didn’t get too wet while on the most exposed part of the track when crossing over the alpine pass. For a short time the track is out of the forest and it is then that you get a sense of the scale of the large mountains towering all around you.

I crossed over the saddle, and then the descent into the Grebe Valley began. I was now high above the southern end of Green Lake. After many knee-jarring steps I was on easier ground near the edge of the lake. Heavy rain returned and this probably made the final section of track seem a little bit longer.

I finally got to the hut in the dim afternoon light and was lucky that the last occupant had left some dry firewood. This was very important as the temperature had been steadily dropping and I needed warmth in my soaked state. After changing into dry clothes, I got the fire roaring and while the hut warmed up the rain outside turned to snow.

I knew that the weather was going to deteriorate, so I had planned to hang out at the hut the next day. After an excellent sleep in I filled in my day taking photos, snoozing and collecting firewood from the nearby forest between showers. and this meant the firewood shed at the back of the hut was well stocked by the end of the day.

Snow fell all day and then into the night making for a surreal environment and I was the only one experiencing it. After spending the day alone at the hut, I figured the place was mine for another night. However, just before I headed to bed at around 10pm I went out to the outside sink to brush my teeth. While scrubbing my chompers I glanced into the pitch-black forest behind the hut and to my surprise I saw several lights in the darkness…

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

Subscribe To my newsletter