Milford Track: Day 2

In the past, I’ve found that the first day of a big hike is the hardest. It doesn’t matter how fit you are, your body is just not used to carrying a pack and walking several hours. Since our first day was really only a short walk in from the lake, I knew that today would be the real day one. And boy was I right. Of all of the days on both the Milford and Routeburn tracks, this was the hardest. It didn’t help that I’d had almost no sleep. There were about four people in the bunk room who were snoring loudly. They seemed to be performing a symphony with their snores. This started off being funny at the beginning of the night, but wasn’t so much by the time I finally gave up pretending to sleep.

Today’s walk was supposed to be 16.5km and we only needed to climb 200m. Seems easy enough, right?

To begin with, it really did seem that easy. The path again followed the river to begin with.

Much of the morning was spent in sight of the beautiful turquoise shades of Quentin river,

walking through a forest of amazingly personable trees.

Every where you looked there was a picture postcard just waiting to be made.

Then the waterfalls started appearing. Not just the little ones coming through the forest, but real water falls.

With some frequency.

After leaving the forest and walking through a more open area for a while, we were able to catch a first glimpse of McKinnon Pass. We’d be climbing up over this tomorrow.

First sight of McKinnon Pass

Along with the normal paths there are some detours that can be taken, such as the one to Hidden Lake. There were warnings on the sign about not taking this detour during avalanche season, but I figured it was probably safe enough since we weren’t in November (ok, by just a few days) and I hadn’t heard any avalanches yet that day.

Hidden Lake

Eventually, walking through the flats, we got a really good look at McKinnon Pass (dead ahead). Hmm, that looks like a climb.

McKinnon Pass dead ahead

But we did have 200m to climb today, so eventually these sandfly infested flats along the river had to end and we were back into the forest, starting to climb.

Every now and then we’d come across a sign of no stopping until reaching the safe zone sign. Seems like we weren’t completely out of avalanche season after all and some areas of the track were more prone to being hit than others. It’s quite impressive how effective they are at land clearing.

Avalanche damage

And that was only down hill from me, you should’ve seen up hill. One avalanche this season had even taken out one of the long drop toilets along the way. Luckily for me, I didn’t need to make a pit stop. Hopefully no one did on the day it was turned into a pile of crumpled up metal.

The 200m climb today was exhausting. We’d climb for about 50m then drop back down. Each time this happened I’d have a little whine of “No! I just climbed that, now I have to climb it again”. And that 16.5km walk? Yeah, I started wondering if I missed the turn off to the hut half an hour after I passed the 16.5km mark of the day. It seemed like the hut was actually Howl’s Moving Castle. Every time you thought it was just around the bend…

it wasn’t.

Eventually, though, the hut was finally right in front of me. Oh did it feel good to get rid of the pack and take off my boots. But we were in Kea country now, so our boots had to be hung up on pegs – leaving them on the ground is an open invitation to Kea mischief (and destruction).

As the forecast for the following day was for rain, several people dropped their packs and then hiked up to the top of McKinnon’s Pass hoping to get to see the view. I figured that I’d probably get up there and it would be all clouded over and I wouldn’t be able to see anything, so decided that I was just too tired and lazy to make the climb. Plus I wasn’t sure I wanted to know ahead of time how bad or long the climb was. Those who did, came down saying that we were in for a hard climb tomorrow and that no they hadn’t been able to see much with the cloud cover. So I obviously made the right choice.

Since this was night two and the big climb loomed, everyone brought out their feasts. That is, everyone wanted to lighten their loads as much as possible for the next day. My three favourite guys (who kept us greatly entertained over the 4 days on the Milford Track) even brought out a bottle of whiskey and a bottle of bear. But I think we all found today rather tiring as I don’t think there was a single person up by 9am.

As before, a selection of my photos from day two, including those in this post are on Flickr.

This post has been reconstructed from the web archives of my old blog. It was originally posted on 19th Jan 2014, and I walked the Milford Track in December 2013

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