We woke up early after our first night on the Routeburn
and while Dylan and Rebecca efficiently cooked breakfast I kept out of the way and took some shots of my surroundings. This being my first tramp out onto the Routeburn, indeed my first tramp ever, I was totally unprepared for the breathtaking views. Douglas Adams has said that the overwhelming urge when confronted with NZ’s Fjordland is to simply stand and applaud and I have to say I felt like this that morning about the Routeburn track. It was my first taste of just how wonderful NZ gets and the weather was fine and clear, making it all the more spectacular. There was a river about 30 m from the hut and the water was crystal clear, ice cold and a pleasure to be beside.
After a welcome and delicious breakfast (which I look oh so pleased about in the shot below…I do love my food!) we packed up and headed off to Routeburn falls. The tramp there would be shorter but steeper so all in all it worked out about the same time.
We arrived at the next hut around 11 and dropped out packs. We lightened the load and consolidated everything we needed for our afternoon trip out into Dylan’s pack and off we went again.
Now the real beauty started to hit me, although the fear levels went up a fair bit as well.
It quickly became clear that we were heading into more technical terrain, whilst much of it remained flat and the climbs still required nothing past normal healthy fitness, I found it needed more mental strength. We were often clambering over rocks, close to some serious drops and a little later on we encountered the last of the snow. This proved to take its toll on me in a way I never thought snow would (having never considered what it’s like hiking through 6 foot snow drifts on the top of a mountain, if I had I would have had the imagination to know I would be terrified!). Because the snow was beginning to melt it wouldn’t support our weight and no amount of kicking my feet in would prevent me from falling through it thigh deep. Not only was it exhausting but the not knowing if anything was below me to break the fall was particularly nerve wracking. The others were more at ease though so I trusted their experience and although I had to take a moment to collect myself at the Lake Harris the views more than made up for the mental effort needed to get there.
It was, quite literally, the most stunningly beautiful place I have ever had the good fortune to stand in. I’m still not sure whether some of the emotion I experienced up there that I put down to tiredness was simply due to being so close to such evocative landscape. I also desperately missed Mickey, not only because of how safe I feel when the two of us are together but because I wanted to be experiencing this with him, it was the only thing that wasn’t perfect about the whole thing. And looking back now it feels fitting that I had to face such a challenge to get there. Heaven forbid, if it had been easy I might have breezed in and out again without appreciating it. We ate lunch and after relaxing there for a while we decided to turn back. The onward route to Harris saddle that we’d hoped to achieve was looking a tad too technical for a social tramp and so we headed back down to the hut to finish the day with a bit of wine and good company.
Not before four of our party decided that a swim in the glacial lake would be a good idea though! I couldn’t quite bring myself to get wet and cold and then hike back down to the hut but watching them was certainly great value and I got my chance the following day down in the forest where it was a little warmer.
We headed back down the way we’d come to the hut and the snow was at least a little more familiar going back, if not any easier going. At one point Dylan, weighed down by a pack carrying three people’s things planted head first into the snow. On seeing him not moving my first thought was that he’d hit his head but it turned out that the weight of the pack was pinning him and this was being ably helped along by Josh who was ‘helping’ him by pushing him in further. Once I realised all was fine, the whole thing looked so funny I couldn’t help but dissolve into near hysterical laughter…one corner of my brain warning me that maybe I shouldn’t laugh so hard or I’d end up heading the same way!