|ROUTEBURN & GREENSTONE TRACKS|
A 5 day walk of about 65kms combining two very different tracks to make a circular walk from Glenorchy. A mixture of grand alpine scenery, snow capped mountains, lakes, grassy flats and bush forest walking. A total contrast between the two tracks.
The Routeburn as one of the 'Great Walks' is very popular and normally should be booked well in advance. We enquired at the DOC centre in Queenstown but would have had to wait a week to get on, the other option was to go camping (could start in 2 days) so we did that. Drove to Glenorchy - Backpacker Express company at the campsite there provide car parking area (free) before getting transport to the track end the same day. We had great weather on this tramp, it would be quite a serious undertaking in really bad weather as you are in alpine territory above the bush line for a whole day. Of course you could just do either of these two tracks on their own but this would incur extra transport costs to get you back to your starting point. We found the Routeburn track to be very busy, think this is mainly because people walk it in both directions, unlike the Milford and you also come into contact with the guided walkers groups. Don't let that put you off though - it's an absolutely fantastic walk. The Greenstone in comparison is considerably less crowded, totally different scenerically as it is all valley walking but we still found it very enjoyable and a good contrast to the Routeburn.
DAY 1...to Routeburn Flats
Beautiful sunny day. Backpacker Express bus for 25k or so to track start by mid afternoon, very busy here with people starting and finishing the walk, plus day walkers. About 7kms through a lovely beech forest, easy gradients. Small gorge by Bridal Veil Falls, worth a short stop. Impressive gorge scenery further on. Mountain views from grassy flats camping area near Routeburn Flats Hut. Cooking shelter with some seating. Sunny evening and great mountain views. About 6 tents there. This hut is hardly ever full as most people carry on to the larger Routeburn Falls Hut about 1.5hrs further on.
Above Routeburn Falls
DAY 2...to Lake Mackenzie Hut
View from Conical Hill
Early morning mist and cloud, a bit depressing as we thought there would be no views but it all cleared by the time we reached Harris Saddle to give a superb clear day. Climbing past Routeburn Falls and the hut (a big place by the falls built on stilts and with good views down the valley), rocky track and quite rough in places as it wandered across flattish area before more climbing past Lake Harris (looking quite foreboding in the mist),to the shelter at Harris Saddle at 1277', which was absolutely crowded out with people. Most of them, including us, leaving their packs here and doing the return trip to Conical Hill at 1515' (a short steep climb) to get even better views, particulary down Hollyford Valley to St Martins Bay. Lunch stop back at the hut. Fantastic scenery then as the track, narrow and rocky, traverses the hillside high above the bushline, about 2hrs before it turns over the hill and Lake Mackenzie, far below, comes into view. It looks a long way down, and it is... rough track in places, a long day of 7hrs+ or so before we arrived at the camping area just past the hut. Small individual pitches, green matting on the hard ground, cooking shelter. The early arrivals had been for a swim in the lake.
DAY 3...to McKellar Hut on the Greenstone Track
Descent to Mackenzie hut on day2
Greenstone Valley & Lake McKellar
A beautiful blue sky day. Short steady climb through bush for about 1hr to a delightful clearing, good views, reflections in small tarn. Track remains above bush line briefly before descending back through bush to the Earland Falls, about 80' high...nice rest spot. Descent then to Lake Howden and its small hut where we stopped for lunch. People relaxing on the grass by the lake...very picturesque area. Greenstone Track starts from here...through bush alongside Lake Howden, slight rise over Greenstone Saddle before hitting open areas and with good views down the valley. About 2hrs easy walking to McKellar Hut(20 bunks - a nice hut in a clearing by the river). Warden alternates between here and the Mid-Greenstone Hut further down the valley, he's down there today. Only 5 of us in the hut, another 4 tents outside. We stopped in the hut - had annual hut passes. A pleasant late afternoon in the sun. Large stack of coal bags in the store ready for the colder weather - costs 70NZ dollars per bag to fly them them in.
DAY 4...to Slyburn Hut
Morning cloud dispersing by lunchtime to give another lovely blue sky day. Over the swingbridge by the hut then easy walking through beech forest, some open bits, some minor ups and downs. Cows grazing in the large open sections of the valley (this is leasehold grazing land hereabouts). All very quiet with pleasant enough views down the valley, not the grandeur of the Routeburn but lovely nonetheless. Met Bruce, the warden, on his way up to McKellar Hut, checked our passes. Wondered how he went on with some of the others who either didn't have an annual pass or paid their dues for staying at the hut.Gorges further down, slightly hidden from view, before Mid-Greenstone Hut comes into view. High swingbridge(the highest so far for us) and late lunch stop at the hut. 7hrs+ before we reached the small Slyburn Hut across the river, camped here with superb views. We preferred the extra walking today as it would mean a shorter walk out tomorrow to catch our transport. Group going the other way offloaded some of their food to us...felt their packs were too heavy.
View from Slyburn Hut
DAY 5...to Glenorchy
Waiting for return transport
Guess what.. another lovely blue sky day. An easy 3-4hr walk out to the carpark. Combination of beech forest and open areas, mainly by the river. Recently upgraded and easy gradient track - done mainly for the guided walkers?? Slip Flats area - a major rock slip. Newish looking Bivouac shelter above the track by the bush edge. Car park by lunchtime - toilets and water here, had a cup of coffee whilst waiting for the bus due at 14:00hrs. A real old bus this one, but then it only had to take us a mile or so to the wharf for a boat trip across a very placid Lake Wakitipu. Boat stopped a couple of times, problem with engine, 'driver' making phone calls back to base, us wondering if we were going to have to swim for it! Got there eventually. Shower at campsite, meal and beers in local hotel. A cool, clear evening to finish. Isn't life wonderful!!