[SUBW-A] Trip report - New Zealand - Fiordland NP

Albert Chetcuti albertc at med.usyd.edu.au
Mon Mar 4 08:49:32 AEDT 2002

New Zealand South Island - Fiordland NP - Kepler track 3rd-6th February

Trampers: Albert Chetcuti and Wendy Au

After travelling along the west coast of the south island, and dropping
off Joe at Punakaiki, we finally arrived at Te Anua, gateway to the
Southland. We visited the local DOC office and obtained the necessary
hut passes ($NZ50 for 3 nights) and checked on the weather. The forecast
was for a low pressure front to hit the Southland in 2 days, expect
strong winds, thunder storms, hail, and snow. Some of the walk is above
the bushline, which meant we were in for some interesting weather.

The walk started at the control gates of Lake Te Anau, and consisted of
a 67 km loop in the Jackson Peaks mountains to the west. The first 1.5
hr was a 5 km bash through typical NZ beech forest to Bord Bay. At Bord
Bay, which also had a good supply of sandflies, the next 9 km of the
walk climbed 850m to Luxmore hut, situated above the treeline.

This walk is another one of New Zealand's great walks, so all hut are
category 1. The track was very well maintained and easy to follow. The
forest was quite dense, and didn't allow for more exploration. About
half way up, we passed a huge limestone outcrop. The composition of the
forest changed as we climbed higher and higher, before reaching the top
of the bushline. Here the windy was blowing, but it was still dry. Above
the trees, we had fantastic views of Lake Te Anau, Lake Manapouri,
Manapouri township, Mt Lyall (1905m) and South Fiord.

Within about 30 mins, we reached Luxmore hut (1080m), situated on an
exposed ridge overlooking Lake Te Anau and South Fiord. Luxmore lodge,
as it more appropriately should be called, was HUGE. It has the capacity
to sleep 60 trampers, has a heater, heaps of gas stoves, internal
flushing toilets, solar powered internal lighting, and a hut warden, by
the name of Peter Jackson. Unfortunately, no hot showers!!

We had a bit of a break, before heading out to Luxmore caves, a 10-15
min walk from the hut. The rock composition of the area is mainly
limestone, so the cave formation system is quite active. We venture
inside Luxmore cave, which was about 50 m in length and saw many
formations, including stalactites, shores, straws, and flow stone.

After returning to the safety of the hut, we cooked dinner, and endured
the 1st of 3 'hut-talks' we received each night, while staying in the
DOC huts.

Next morning the full force of the low-pressure system had reach the
Southland. At 8:30 am, the hut warden put up the weather forecast for
today. It included strong windy, with gust up to 50-60 kp/h, and a
comment down the bottom, "hold onto your hats". Outside the windy was
blowing like crazy, the rain was falling lightly. We geared up and
headed outside. I left my Gore-Tex pants back in the car, and at this
point was regretting it. We headed for Mt Luxmore (1472m), which we
could see beyond the distant cloud cover. It wasn't much fun, walking
above the tree line, fully exposed to the wind and rain, and wearing
shorts as well (its even colder wearing wet pants).

Within about 2 hrs, we reached to turn off to Mt Luxmore. Just as we
began the climb, 2 fellow tramper appeared from the mist. "Not much of a
view from up there", one of them mentioned. We PRESSED ON REGARDLESS,
with visibility reduced to only a few metres. We reached the trig in
good time, and sheltered from the wind while enjoying some dark
chocolate Tim Tams.

The track continued along the ridge and led to 2 emergency shelters,
which were quite useful considering the conditions. Each had a toilet,
with a priceless view of South Fiord. We reached the second shelter,
called Hanging valley shelter by 1 PM, and had lunch out of the weather.
The track dropped off the mountain, back into the forest and down to
Iris Burn hut.

Iris Burn hut was huge, like Luxmore, with a capacity to sleep 60
trampers. Unlike Luxmore, the hunt warden was a cool looking young dude,
with funny hair, and a crazy sense of humor. It was quite a relief when
we reached the hut, as we could change into dry clothes, and entertained
ourselves killing those biting bloody f..... sandflies.

During the night, the rain was persistent and heavy. As with the
previous morning, we waited for the 8:30 am weather forecast from the
hunt warden. Snow down to 800 m! Last night had been a blizzard, and
no-one was allowed to leave Iris Burn hut headed for Luxmore hut. Also,
every who had spent the night a Luxmore, had to stay because of the
blizzard conditions up on the mountains. As Iris Burn was only at 400 m,
we experienced only heavy rain.

Day 3 consisted of a 17.9 km walk to Moturau hut, in the rain. The track
follows Iris Burn river, as it flows from the mountains out to lake
Manapouri. As we walked, we could see the snow covered mountains, which
we had been on the day before.

To our surprise, the potbelly heater was running in Moturau hut, and we
dried our wet cloths, including a few pairs of smelly wet socks. By the
time we reached the hut, the weather had cleared, and the rain had
stopped. We relaxed in the hut, reading some of the interesting books
supplied by the hut warden, including books on fiordland, and the latest
issue of New Idea. The sunset over Lake Manapouri made for some great

Day 4 was a 17 km walk out back to the carpark. The track went past
wetlands, and followed the Waiau river to the Lake Te Anau control

Having been our first trip to New Zealand, we totally enjoyed the place.
There are some 900 DOC backcountry huts, which are suitably spaced a
days walk apart. The land is a place of many contrast, from huge 3700m
snow covered mountains to huge open flat plains, and massive lakes and
rivers. There's no snakes, no leeches, but zillions of bloody sandflies.

See ya


Albert Chetcuti
Cancer Genetics Group
Department of Medicine
Faculty of Medicine
Blackburn Building - D06
The University of Sydney
NSW, 2006 Australia.

(02) 9515 5194 (Office1)
(02) 9351 3556 (Office2)
(02) 9515 5192 (Lab)
(02) 9516 1273 (Fax)
Email albertc at med.usyd.edu.au

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