Showing posts with label Quinton Lodge. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Quinton Lodge. Show all posts

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Great Walk:Milford Track, Days 3-4: 6-7 December 2018

The last two days of my Milford Track Tramp...

The last two days of the Milford Track would see me climb up and over MacKinnon Pass and then spend the rest of the trip walking down the beautiful Arthur River. On the way I would visit the Sutherland Falls, at 580 meters it is the fifth largest in the world. The terrain was spectacular and happily I had two fine days to enjoy the end of the walk.

View of the Jervois Glacier from the highest point on MacKinnon Pass, Milford Track

It was two hard days of tramping with a massive height gain and loss and the long seemingly never ending hump out to Sandfly Point on the last day.

Day three: MacKinnon Pass and Sutherland Falls: 12 kms, 7 hours

Day three was not a long day as far as distance was concerned, it was only 12 kms but it was over some of the roughest,steepest track I have walked since the Travers-Sabine trip. It started out nice enough, the first 20 minutes from the hut was along a nice flat track before the climb to MacKinnon Pass started in earnest

Back on the Milford Track at the turn off to Mintaro Hut

Setting out from Mintaro Hut on the way to MacKinnon Pass,  Milford Track, Fiordland

It was raining when I set out and cold as there had been some overnight snow, I couldn't see the Pass to start with...I got my first good view an hour into the tramp when I broke out of the forest. Luckily the weather cleared before I got to that point and the trip up and over the pass was done in weak but welcomed sunshine.

The first 20 minutes of day three is flat...Milford Track, Fiordland

A couple of cold looking juvenile Kea near Mintaro Hut, Milford Track, Fiordland

The bridge over the Clinton River marked the start of the climb to the pass, from here it was all up hill or steep downhill for the rest of the day.

Just a note in passing, Mintaro Hut is moving....the new Mintaro Hut is due to be built close to the swing-bridge in the Upper Clinton Valley. Supposedly DOC have located a spot near here far enough away from the river and adjacent high bluffs so that it neither floods nor gets squashed. Building is due to start in May of 2019 so its ready for the 2019/2020 season. 

Last footbridge over the Clinton River...last of the flat ground in the Clinton Valley

Start of the climb to MacKinnon Pass, Milford Track, Fiordland

The track is a series of switchbacks al the way to MacKinnon Pass

You can see the line of fresh snow along the side of the Clinton Valley, it fell to the 1300 meter line so it didn't settle on the pass. The wind up the valley was strong and cold so I had my jacket on from Mintaro Hut until right down to the Anderson Cascade Shelter in the Arthur Valley.

Mintaro Lake from the MacKinnon Pass track, Milford Track, Fiordland

Some parts of the track are rocky...Milford Track, Fiordland

View towards the end of the Clinton Valley from the track to MacKinnon Pass

Breaking out of the forest on the way to MacKinnon Pass

Lake Mintaro, Clinton Valley and the massive ridge which overlooks Mintaro Hut

The track to MacKinnon Pass is a series of fairly gentle switchbacks, it was actually much easier than I had anticipated and was the easiest part of the day in a lot of respects. I would hate to walk over here in a storm though as there is zero cover from the edge of the bush until you get to the shelter up on MacKinnon Pass.

Clear view of the switchbacks leading to MacKinnon Pass, Milford Track, Fiordland

First view of the Quintin MacKinnon Memorial atop the pass

The Quintin MacKinnon monument is visible for about the last 45 minutes of the climb...

Nearly there....MacKinnon Pass Memorial, Milford Track, Fiordland

It took me just 1.5 hours to get to the top of the pass, a half hour less than the posted time. There are spectacular views from the top: down into the Clinton and Arthur River Valleys and also of the many magnificent mountains in the area.

It was also freezing up on the pass so those of us there tucked ourselves in behind the MacKinnon Memorial and had a rest out of the wind.

Me at the plateau at MacKinnon Pass, Milford Track, Fiordland

Looking out over the '14 second drop' MacKinnon Pass, Milford Track, Fiordland

The folks photo bombing me are a group of Kiwi workmates who go for a Great Walk tramp every year, they were doing the Milford Track in 2018. About 10 of us were at the pass around the same time, before we shouldered our packs once again and set off for the shelter another 20 minutes along the track.

Me and some of my fellow independent walkers atop MacKinnon Pass

Cheeky Kea sitting atop the MacKinnon Pass memorial, Milford Track, Fiordland

The plaque on the Quintin MacKinnon Memorial

The tarn at the top of MacKinnon Pass, the high point of Milford Track in close distance

The memorial is not the highest point along this track, that point is about 10 minutes and another 100 meters higher along the track. I stopped when I reached the high point and took a series of photos of the surrounding area. It was high alpine meadows and massive peaks for as far as the eye could see....

Looking down on the MacKinnon Memorial and tarn from near the high point

The 14 second drop, Sutherland Falls is just out of view behind the rocky bluff

The wind from the highest point down to the shelter was ferocious...I can see why people have to crawl along this track at times. I imagine the wind just roars across the top of the pass at times...four of the past five shelter huts built up here have been blown right off the ridge top!!!

Looking at the Mt Balloon Massif from the highest point on the Milford Track, Fiordland

Mt Balloon and the MacKinnon Pass shelter from the high point of the Milford Track

I was so lucky it was clear as there were magnificent views back down the Clinton Valley I had been walking up for the last three days. This is big country around here....massive mountains, huge bluffs and awesome drops...

Excellent view of the Clinton River Valley from the high point of the Milford Track, Fiordland

I got to the MacKinnon Shelter just before midday, it is fairly Spartan inside but it does have a fully enclosed room, a gas cooker, water and toilets. I stopped here for about 20 minutes and had something to eat and a hot soup. You could easily stay here in an emergency but you would need a good sleeping bag as it was quite cold inside.

The guided walkers side of the hut had sofas and soft chairs and a guide was there making them hot drinks so sucks to be an independent tramper.....

MacKinnon Pass Shelter, Milford Track, Fiordland

Interior of MacKinnon Pass Shelter: note the gas cooker and avalanche rescue gear

Interior of MacKinnon Pass Shelter, Milford Track

A toilet with a the MacKinnon Pass shelter, Milford Track

After 20 minutes I packed up and started down into the Arthur can see how Mt Balloon dominates the surrounding is at least another 700 meters taller than the pass and towers over you as you descend down the path. Some of those bluffs in the photo below are 300 meters or nearly 1000 feet high!!!

A bit unnerving to those of us from Christchurch who are more aware of earthquake induced avalanches.

The Milford Track heads down into the Arthur River Valley

If the ascent was easy the descent was not...1200 meters of descent over 4 kilometres is not an ideal was god-damn steep and rough as guts. By the time I got down to Quintin Lodge my legs were like jelly and I needed to recuperate for 30 minutes before I could stomach the walk to Sutherland Falls.

Skirting the edge of Mt Balloon, Milford Track, Fiordland

Milford Track descending into the Arthur Valley

Mt Elliot (1990) and the Jervois Glacier dominate the head of the Arthur Valley

Because of the avalanche danger from the overhanging Jervois Glacier we had to use the much rougher emergency track to get to the Anderson Cascade Shelter. It is not a pleasant track...rough, ill formed, eroded and huge step downs slowed every single walker down. It took me over two hours to get to Quintin Lodge from the top of the Emergency track. 

That's a rate of 1 kilometre per hour!!!

The emergency track we used to get to Quintin Lodge...Milford Track, Fiordland

Yes the emergency track is very steep...Milford Track, Fiordland

Rough as guts Emergency track to the bottom of the Arthur Valley

Mt Elliot towers over the upper reaches of the Arthur Valley

Once you got to the bottom of the emergency track the steepness did not subside. It was very steep right down to the last 100 meters...i.e just before the lodge. A lot of it was board-walk and stairs, they meandered down next to the Roaring Burn which runs off Jervois Glacier.

Roaring Burn Cascades, Milford Track, Fiordland

Stairs and board-walk alongside the Roaring Burn River, Milford Track, Fiordland

Even more stairs along the Milford Track at the Roaring Burn

The Roaring Burn Waterfall, Milford Track, Fiordland

Swing-bridge over the Roaring Burn, Milford Track, Fiordland
I was going to stop at the Anderson Cascade Shelter but the wind was whipping down the valley and it was a very unpleasant spot to stop. I just refilled my water bottle and continued on down the track to the day shelter at Quintin Lodge.

Anderson's Cascade Shelter, Milford Track, Fiordland

Track Junction to the Sutherland Falls, Quintin Lodge and the Quintin Day Shelter, Milford Track, Fiordland

Quintin Lodge Swingbridge
There is a day shelter at Quintin Lodge so the independent walkers have somewhere to leave their packs before setting off for the Sutherland Falls. There is tea/coffee/chocolate/Raro and sugar provided by the nearby Lodge so I had couple of cups of tea to revive myself. 

From here it is about 40 minutes walk to the Sutherland Falls, I took my jacket, camera and water bottle with me. The track starts off flat but gets steeper the closer to the Falls you get. The roar of falling water was the first thing you heard and then the odd glimpse of the Falls in the distance.

Quintin Lodge Day Shelter, Milford Track, Fiordland
The Sutherland Falls really are spectacular...580 meters of drop over three distinct falls. The spray from the water hitting the bottom starts to soak you when you are still 200+ meters away and it wasn't even raining. I cannot imagine what they would be like in a big rain storm...they must be amazing!

That's why the Milford Track exists, so people could get up here to see what were the second highest known waterfalls in the world in the 1890's.

First view of the Sutherland Falls from the track to Quintin Lodge

Some idiotic guided walkers striped down to their underwear and went around the edge of the Falls to try to get behind them....Jon says bugger that for a lark. That water must feel like concrete blocks hitting you from that height...yikers!!!

Hey, I'm sure no-one said they shouldn't do it but some things don't need to be verbalised....

Close-up of some idiots climbing up behind the Sutherland Falls

Quintin Lodge from the track to Sutherland Falls

After I got back from the Falls I had another cup of tea and then set off for the final hour down to the hut for the night. The track from Quintin to Dumpling Hut is of a good standard but it sure did seem to take a long time on poor olde Jon's tired legs....

The track heading down to Dumpling Hut, Milford Track, Fiordland

A distant view of the Sutherland Falls from the track to Dumpling Hut, Milford Track, Fiordland

There is a nice view of the Arthur River about 20 minutes down the track from Quintin Lodge.

First clear view of the Arthur River on day three...Milford Track, Fiordland

A old bridge section between Quintin Lodge and Dumpling Hut

Part of the extensive board-walk around the Arthur River flank of Mt Elliot

Eventually I arrived at Dumpling Hut some time around 5 pm, it had been a long tiring day and I was damn happy to sit down and take the weight off my legs.  My thighs were really hurting, seven hours of uphill and downhill takes a toll on your body. 

I wished that I had done more hill training for the walk as I was limping by the time I reached the hut. I actually felt like an old dude for the first time when out tramping....

I am doing a proper training regime before I attempt the Routeburn and Kepler Tracks in 2019 that's for sure!

The turn off to Dumpling hut after seven hours walking...Milford Track, Fiordland

Dumpling Hut is unusual, there is not enough flat ground to have all of the facilities together so they are spread out over two adjacent flat terraces. The four 10 person bunk-rooms are on the bottom terrace and the joint dining/relaxation area is on the terrace above.

Dumpling is the newest hut on the track having been completed in 2011. 

Dumpling Hut, Milford Track, Fiordland

Interior of one of the bunk-rooms at Dumpling Hut

Interior of the dining area at Dumpling Hut, Milford Track, Fiordland
Everyone was shattered by this day, the last walkers stumbled in at 7.30 just as the hut warden was starting her talk. Everyone was in bed early as we had that 19 kilometre/six hour walk out to Sandfly Point in the morning and some people had to be there by 2 pm!!!

Day four: Dumpling Hut to Sandfly Point: 19 kms, 7 hours

My thighs were stuffed the next morning...even with liberal doses of Voltaren and various painkillers it was a real struggle to walk. I was OK once I got going but every-time I stopped for a break it took me 20 minutes to get back into the flow of walking.

I basically walked my way out to Sandfly Point on shear bloody mindedness...

Start of the last day....19 kms walk to Sandfly Point, Milford Track

Milford Track, Fiordland...on  the way to Boatshed Hut

Dense bush crowds one of the side streams along the Milford Track

Nice flat path heading alongside the Arthur River, Milford Track, Fiordland
There was a new slip across the track about a hour from Dumpling Hut, all of the vegetation had slid off the side of a hill for a distance of about 300 metres wide and piled up at the bottom. DOC have built a temporary board walk across the top of it but I imagine it will need to be cleared at some stage.

Expedient board-walk to cross a recent slip near the Boatshed Hut, Milford Track, Fiordland

The track was easy to walk along, if my thighs had not been playing up I would have burnt through the distance. It was still blessed comfort after the punishing descents of the previous day. It was lovely walking along in the shade as it quickly got hot once the sun came out and started warming the valley.

Only gentle ups and downs along this part of the track, Milford Track, Fiordland

The Boatshed Hut is a complex of buildings owned by the guided walking company, locked and not for use of the riff raff, hoi polloi independent walkers. There are a set of toilets here so use them if you need them as there are no others till the Giant Gate Shelter about two hours further down the track.

The first of the outbuildings at Boatshed Hut, Milford Track, Fiordland

The complex of buildings at the Boatshed Hut, Milford Track, Fiordland

Approach to the Arthur River Swingbridge

The swing-bridge over the Arthur River is set in a beautiful bend of the river, it was nice seeing the snow capped mountains, green of the forest and aquamarine of the river mixing together.

The swing-bridge over the Arthur River, Milford Track, Fiordland

The Mt Edgar Massif and the calm Arthur River from the Arthur River swing-bridge

Once past the swing-bridge you are walking with the Arthur River on your right side for most of the rest of the day. The track meanders back and forth along the banks of the river heading further inland at a few spots where the river has eroded the riverbank away. I imagine the whole track will need to be rerouted over time as every big rain event causes track damage. 

This Beech tree is three meters wide, Milford Track, Fiordland

The extensive board-walk on the approach to MacKay Creek, Milford Track, Fiordland

You pass a succession of water falls over the day: the MacKay and Giants Gate are the largest and both can be heard long before you can see them. If you need to replenish your water any of the larger streams are clean enough, I refilled at Giants Gate and this saw me through to Sandfly Point.

MacKay Creek footbridge, Milford Track, Fiordland

Looking up MacKay Creek from the footbridge, Milford Track, Fiordland

Bell Rock is a massive boulder which was hollowed out by the river and then flipped upside down, if you climb under it is tall enough to stand in just like a cave. I could not face trying to crawl inside (my legs would not bend) so just admired it from the outside....

The famous Bell Rock....hollowed out by the nearby river, Milford Track, Fiordland

Mackay Falls, Milford Track, Fiordland

 You also spend a good proportion of the day walking beside Lake Ada, formed when a large slip blocked the passage of the Arthur River to Milford Sound. The rock in Fiordland is hard so it endures for a long time, but when it does collapse it is usually fairly dramatic...

Mt Ada from the Milford Track running along the Arthur River

The crystal clear Arthur River, Milford Track, Fiordland

Board-walk alongside Lake Brown, Milford Track, Fiordland

It looks like they are re routing sections of the track as the existing track is gradually falling into the Arthur River every-time it rains.There was a section of new track close to Poseidon Creek...

New track workings under way between Poseidon Creek and Mackay Falls

A part of the old benched track near Poseidon Creek

Eventually you arrive at Poseidon Creek roughly half way between Dumpling Hut and Sandfly Point. From here it is about three hours to the end of the track so you are on the downward run once you reach this spot.

Poseidon Creek footbridge, half way between Dumpling Hut and Sandfly Point

Poseidon Creek footbridge, half way between Dumpling Hut and Sandfly Point

Lake Ada is about two kilometers long and covers the right flank of the remainder of the track. At one point you climb up a cutting along the face of a large bluff. It took a team of men seven years to blast this path out of the solid rock so people could access the Sutherland Falls from Milford Sound. The cutting would be no more than 400 meters long but the rock in Milford is damn stubborn and hard.

When they finished the job they carved their names into the rock face and so they have remained for over a hundred years now. I think they deserved that...

First view of Lake Ada from the track along the Arthur River

The infamous cutting between Poseidon Creek and the Giant Gate Shelter

The guys who cut this path left their initials in the rock...this is from 1889!

As you can see the cutting rises to a point about 100 meters above the river and is only about a meter wide so care is needed when walking along this section of the track.

Looking down on the head of Lake Ada from the cutting, Milford Track, Fiordland

The boulder in this photo is about the size of a small house and the only thing holding it to the cliff is a slender ledge of rock a couple of inches wide. Nature shows you some strange and unusual things at times...

Precariously balanced boulder the size of a house, near Giant Gates Shelter

Eventually you arrive at the Giant Gate Shelter, there is a toilet here if you need one but it is preferable to stop for lunch another five minutes up the track on the far side of Giant Gate Creek.

The sand-flies are awful around the shelter as it is situated right next to a big swamp. I followed the advice of one of the guides who came along and rested on the beach near Giant Gate Falls. 

Milford Track, Fiordland: the day shelter near the Giants Gates....sand fly hell!!!

Crossing the footbridge over Giant Gates Creek, guide in front of me

A couple of the more hardy (or foolhardy) guided walkers went for a swim in the deep pool in front of the Giant Gate Falls. It was hot by now, probably around 25 degrees and it would safe enough as the river meanders out of the pool but it must be awesomely cold as my water bottle immediately misted up after I filled it here.

Giant Gates Falls with some guided walkers going for a swim......crazy bastids!

The track was mostly flat from here out to Sandfly Point, just the odd up and down so it was easy walking. It took me a while to get along as I was still having problems with my thigh muscles. 

It was a bit busier as both the guided walkers and independent walkers all had to be at Sandfly Point to catch water-taxis between 2 and 4 pm so everyone had bunched up.

On the Milford Track between Giant Gates and Sandfly Point

View of the rapids at the mouth of Lake Ada, Arthur river, Milford Track, Fiordland

I passed the last mile marker about 1.20 pm, this meant I had one mile or about 1.5 kilometers left before I got to the end of the track.

Everyone else took off like a shot as they thought they were almost home. Canny Jon just kept plodding along as I knew it was at least another 40 minutes to the end. By the time I reached the end of the track I had overtaken half of the people who had passed me and run out of juice.

The last mile marker on the Milford Track....only one more mile to go!!!

The bridge over Camp Oven Creek, in the last kilometer of the Milford Track, Fiordland

The remainder of the Milford Track is of a good standard to Sandfly Point

First view of Clearwater Basin at the mouth of the Arthur River, Milford Track

Beech lined trail...500 meters to Sandfly Point

Finally after seven hours walking I reached the shelter at Sandfly Point. I was happy to be finished and elated that I had knocked off another of the Great Walks despite basically hobbling the last couple of kilometers.

When I got to the shelter seven of the other people walking independently were still there waiting for the 3 pm water-taxi. We chatted about the track and what next, then all of us went and jumped on the water-taxi for the five minute ride to Milford Sound.

First view of the shelter at Sandfly Point, Milford Track, Fiordland

Water tanks on the outside of Sandfly Point shelter

The separate shelter for the independent walkers, Sandfly Point, Milford Track, Fiordland

Independent Walkers only thanks all the same.....Sandfly Point, Milford Track, Fiordland

This sign is the official end of the Milford Track, 33.5 miles or 56.2 kilometers from Glade Wharf.

The sign which marks the official end to the Milford Track, Sandfly Point

Looking out to Milford Sound from the Sandfly Point jetty

The water-taxi to Milford Sound township at Sandfly Point

View out to Milford Sound from the jetty at Sandfly Point, Fiordland

And that as they say was that, another of the Great Walks completed and a awesome time had in some of the most beautiful places in New Zealand.

Access: From Te Anau you travel to the dock at Te Anau Downs where you board the water-taxi to Glade Wharf. Both buses and water-taxis are booked at the same time as the huts you will use along the Milford Track. 
Track times: 2-3 hours from Mintaro hut to MacKinnon Pass Shelter, 2 hours to Quintin Hut Day Shelter, the trip to Sutherland Falls takes 1.5 hours return, then 1 further hour to Dumpling Hut, 6-7 hours from Dumpling Hut Hut to Sandfly Bay Shelter
Hut Details: Quinton Lodge: 50 bunk private lodge for the guided walkers, MacKinnon Pass Shelter: day shelter only, filtered water, gas cooker, solar lights, flushing toilets, Anderson's Cascade Shelter: covered shelter for both groups, no facilities, Quintin Day Shelter: day shelter for independent walkers travelling to Sutherland Falls, tea/cofee facilities including hot water and milk,water, toilets,  Dumpling Hut: Great Walk, 40 bunks,filtered water, gas cookers, solar lights, wood fire, wood shed, flushing toilets.
Miscellaneous: The Milford Track is a Great Walk so all transport and accommodation must be pre booked. There are standard DOC toilets roughly every 2 miles along the Arthur Valley, most at huts or shelters. Some un-bridged side streams can be a problem in heavy rain and care is required at all times. High risk of avalanches during the Winter season and after heavy snow events at any time of the year.

The High and Low Points of the Milford Track

Looking at the best features of the track I would have to say the is majestic. Huge sheer faced mountain ridges, beautiful emerald green rivers, a hundred waterfalls falling through clouds....Wow!

 Everywhere you look there is something to make you gasp. The best point was Sutherland Falls..that is a mighty drop and the sound of the falling water was awesome. The view from the high point on MacKinnon Pass was also magnificent and I was lucky to see it on a clear day. The tracks and huts were all good apart from the Emergency Track down off MacKinnon Pass.

The view of Clinton Valley from MacKinnon Pass....

There was not a lot of negative points: the demon sand-flies and that awful descent down to Quinton Hut really. It was not pleasant walking for seven hours out to Sandfly Point on the last day with destroyed thigh muscles but then everyone else was the same. 

What would be good additions to the track...closed in shelters for the walkers in both the Clinton and Arthur River Valleys. The shelters are there but they are open to sand-fly attack and in Fiordland that is no small problem. I was covered in DEET and they still chowed down big time on Jon. It would have been nice to have a lunch shelter to use without fighting the sand-flies. 

Protection from rain but not the sand-flies at Giant Gate Shelter

Do some proper training if you are heading this way...up hill work of course but also a lot of rough downhill. The uphill was hard in spots but the sustained downhill was not pleasant. I was under prepared but each journey is a learning experience after all....I'll know better next time.