Working on the Routeburn Track

“Working in Paradise” 2008-2012. The Routeburn Track. Fiordland/Mt Aspiring National Park. When I get asked “what is your favourite hike?” the most common answer you will get from me is “one I haven’t done yet”. But the walk I recommend for most people when forced to pick one is, The Routeburn Track. A hiker can achieve all the things required when looking for the perfect hike through the mountains in New Zealand. From dense West Coast Forest to stunning alpine lakes and of course breath-taking mountain views, The Routeburn Track has this all in just three days, two nights. Nothing beats helping someone up the last zig-zag out of Lake MacKenzie Basin and showing them the view at Ocean Peak Corner of the mighty Darran Mountains and the Hollyford Valley one thousand meters below, and then to walk the Hollyford Face looking down the valley at Lake McKerrow, Martins Bay and the Tasman Sea.

I will never forget a trip early-ish in my career when we arrived at the Divide to start the hike just as the heavens opened and we were hit with extremely heavy rain. Somehow in the journey to Howden Hut the rain got heavier and after leaving the hut the call was made to walk in one group, playing ‘Guide Tag’ at each side-stream crossing. I had stayed behind to clean up Howden Hut and as I set off I was warned by the other guides about the conditions of the side-streams when heading up to Earland Falls. I had just crossed a major waterfall/torrent when the other guides radioed back to see how I was and they told me there was a particularly crazy bit coming up and to be extremely careful when crossing. I told them I had managed to negotiate that part, and wasn’t far off catching up to the back of the group. I was wrong. I came around a bend in the track to find a huge amount of water rumbling over the track and it took a lot a concentration and strength to cross. I came across the back of the group immediately after and was pumped up on adrenaline from the crazy crossing and ready for the next challenge, Earland Falls. Not many get to see Earland Falls in those conditions and the man body of the waterfall was so large it was hitting the emergency detour track. We started to slowly help people around the slippery rocks of the detour track and I notice a lady walking back down the track in the wrong direction. I tracked her down and asked where was she going and she explained that the whole situation was insane and we were going to die! I assured her that this was normal and I was going to walk the rest of the hike right beside her and she could hold my hand the whole way if she needed to. We managed to complete the rest of the hike to Lake MacKenzie Lodge and the next day the rain turned to snow for blizzard conditions on the Hollyford Face and as we pushed on through deep snow I assured my new friend this was very normal conditions for February on the Routeburn Track. After completing the hike we went out for dinner with the group and during the certificate presentation ceremony we explained to the group they had walked through 400mm of rain in less than 25 hours, with periods of more than 60mm per hour! It was at this point my new friend jumped up laughing and said “I KNEW YOU WHERE LYING”.

Early season helicopter work on the Harris Saddle

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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