Weekend wanderings: Gertrude Saddle

Another weekend, another hike. This time we ventured a bit further afield, back into the awe-inspiring Fiordland, and took on the challenging Gertrude Saddle.

Found on the Te Anau side of the Homer Tunnel, the Gertrude Saddle is a hike that is pretty easy on the body but takes a lot of concentration and care. 

If you’re prepared to go through flooded streams and rivers, navigate skree and boulders without markers and scale a smooth rock face with steel cables, the views across Fiordland into Milford Sound are astonishingly rewarding.

It’s doable in half a day, but it’s best to take your time, especially if – like us – you’re not massively experienced routefinders. Stop regularly to spot the next marker and keep in mind that a straight line is unlikely to be the safest route from one pole to the next. 

The markers stop about two thirds of the way up and from there you have to walk across skree and boulder field, then climb up rock face with the aid of steel cables.

The Department of Conservation say the return walk should take between four and six hours. It took us five and a half, including a lengthy stop in the saddle to gawp at the view, and an earlier stop for lunch and to dry off after falling in a stream at the start of the hike.

This is by far the hardest walk we have done to date. While Roy’s Peak and Meg Hut were lung busters, Gertrude Saddles tested our judgement like never before.

Respect for mountain landscapes is crucial, knowing your limits and not being afraid to call it off if the ground or the weather is too difficult.

I was reminded of this in embarrassing fashion less than 15 minutes into the walk. After waking through flooded streams at shin height, we came to yet another, this time with what looked like a simple hop from one rock to another to clear the stream. I made it, but hadn’t taken into account the slippery rocks, my sodden boots and the weight of the bag on my back. In an instant I fell backwards into the stream, landing on my back, up to my chest in fast flowing water. My clothes were soaked, I was shocked and embarrassed, and my fellow walkers more than a little worried. 

I was very lucky not to hit my head on a rock or injure a limb, because I’d have missed out on something very special at the top. I’m just glad Steph’s camera wasn’t in the bag. She’d never have forgiven me!

Photographs from Gertrude Saddle

Weekend wanderings: Meg Hut

Now we’re all settled in our home and jobs, we’ve got our weekends (Tuesdays and Wednesdays) to get out exploring more of New Zealand and tick off some of the things on our ever growing to do list. Here’s the first one we did.

Meg Hut hike

Last week, 31 January and 1 February, we hiked up to Meg Hut in the Piza Range just outside Wanaka, in Cardrona.

The short two hour hike seemed pretty straight forward when we read about it, but following the quite direct 4×4 vehicle track was a pretty gruelling route, but the steep climb took in some pretty incredible views. It spoils you really, living somewhere with easy access to beautiful scenery. It becomes normal and you have to remind yourself how lucky you are sometimes. There’s no better way to bring that home than to get out amongst the landscape.

Meg Hut is a secluded stop in the heart of the Piza Range, a centre point for walks over the peaks between Cromwell, Cardrona and Queenstown.

The hut is next to a meandering river in the bottom of a valley, surrounded by dominating, dusty, grey mountains and dead pine trees. As you approach the hut from higher ground it looks quite eerie.

We shared the eight berth hut with a couple from Belgium and three New Zealander’s. We chopped up some of the wood outside, got a fire going and spent the evening chatting, eating and drinking while the rain fell outside. There aren’t many more relaxing way to spend the waning hours of the day.

However, once we went to bed, the relaxation was replaced by frustration and mystery as the hut’s resident mouse scuttles around the floor, over beds and into backpacks. A disturbed night to say the least.

Photographs from Meg Hut hike