Milford Track (MacKinnon Pass), New Zealand, Nov. 19, 2012

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Milford Track (MacKinnon Pass), New Zealand, Nov. 19, 2012

Postby Tony Crocker » Fri Sep 27, 2013 9:57 pm

I found this site http://www.topomap.co.nz/NZTopoMap/nz14686/ . The link is centered on Pompolona Lodge where we spent our second night, but the page can be zoomed and/or scrolled to follow the entire Milford Track, or anywhere you might want to look in NZ. I was even able to find ski lifts, including at the Canterbury club fields.

New Zealand’s birds, many flightless, have been decimated by various introduced species, so now there’s an aggressive trapping program in Fiordland National Park. So this Australian possum was one of our first sights leaving Pompolona Lodge on our third day.
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Typical cloud/fog patches in the early morning
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St. Quintin Falls
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Bridge over upper Clinton River, cliff and ribbon waterfall
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“Safe Area” sign is there to tell people not to linger in certain areas in heavy rain or with avalanche danger.
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As we gain elevation, we encounter the Mt. Cook Lily, which is in various stage of bloom between ~2,000 and 3,000 feet.
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Here’s the head of the Clinton River valley, with one of our guides just below on the trail.
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As we climb higher 6,058 foot Mt. Balloon dominates the view ahead.
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Soon we approach the MacKinnon Memorial on the pass.
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There’s a Kea, the New Zealand mountain parrot I’ve seen on my ski trips, on the cross.

Closeup of Memorial
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Closeup of Kea
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View down Arthur River valley at right, 4,562 foot Mt. Pillans center and Staircase Creek at left.
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The Quintin Lodge and abandoned airstrip are visible below. Supply to Pompolona and Quintin Lodges is by helicopter now.

Liz and I are near one of the small lakes on MacKinnon Pass.
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Lunch is in Pass Hut, as weather can be bad up here.
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Pass Hut was blown down and had to be rebuilt 3x between 1928 and 1968. Also, Glade House has been damaged by flood and Pompolona Lodge by avalanche.

The Milford Track is being repaired on much of the descent from MacKinnon Pass, so we are diverted here.
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The diversion trail is steep, narrow and twists its way through the ever denser rainforest.
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We eventually reach the Roaring Burn, where the trail is built on platforms and stairs to afford the best views of the cascades and waterfalls.
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If you enjoy water features, they just keep coming through this section.

Back into the rainforest we spotted a weka, one of NZ’s flightless birds.
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The box at left is a stoat trap.

Soon we reach Quinton Lodge and learn the one disappointment of this trip. The ~20 minute spur trail to Sutherland Falls is blocked by a landslide. By walking out to the end of the airstrip, I get a long distance view.
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Sutherland Falls is in total 1,900 feet.

In the opposite direction is the sunset sky.
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The Milford Track is billed as “The Finest Walk in the World.” For a single day it’s hard to imagine more impressive and varied scenery than this one. For a multiday trip Liz and I would probably vote for last year’s trek in Torres del Paine. The trails in Patagonia are quite a bit rougher; they are more graded and prepared here to retard erosion with ~250 inches of rain per year.

Some hiking guidebooks think the Milford Track is overrated. This is primarily due to weather, as it rains ~50% of days and our group was among the lucky 10% not to get rained upon at all. With bad weather the MacKinnon Pass day can be like mine on Mt. Fuji in 2009, which had visibility of only 10-20 feet on the upper 2,000 vertical of the mountain. Those books advise people arriving at Pompolona Lodge in good weather to climb MacKinnon Pass an extra time that late afternoon, just in case the weather obscures the views the next day. Our guides advised us at the start of the trip that each day was going to be progressively clearer. Our only rain was at Glade House the first night.
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Tony Crocker
 
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