#outdoor

Walking on the Top of the Mountain

Hiking the Kepler Track on the South Island of New Zealand

Walking on the Top of the Mountain

The day before our 3 day trek, we showed up to the small town of Te Anau with a forecast of rain, more rain, and possibly some snow at higher elevation.

Halfway through our first day, the clouds rolled in and quickly following behind them was the wet weather. I didn’t want my camera to get soaked, so I snapped a few photos and packed it away. We kept moving forward and eventually made it above the tree line, but couldn’t see a thing around us at this point.

Luxmore Hut was waiting up ahead and that’s where we spent our first night. In the large kitchen area, wet clothes hung from the pipes above the furnace and everyone was scattered at different tables. That night, the hut ranger informed us of the possibility of snow for the next afternoon and she advised us to get out early before the weather worsened. We woke up early the next morning and set out for our 9 mile day.

For the first few hours, we couldn’t see much around us. It was hard to tell which direction we were going in, but it felt like a lot of uphill and back downhill over and over again. Towards the end of our mountain traversing, the clouds slightly lifted and we finally caught a glimpse of where we were. It was breathtaking. We truly were walking along the top of a mountain the whole time - nothing but steep hills to either side of the trail. Even though the clouds only cooperated for a minute, it’ll be a memory I’ll keep forever.

About 45 minutes later, we were off the mountain top and surrounded by a thick rainforest. It was such a drastic change from where we just were that it didn’t feel real. Since things dried up a bit down there, I was able to pull my camera back out and keep it by my side.

Ninety-seven switchbacks later, we were at our second hut. This area had some warming sunlight, so we sat for a while and rested our legs. There’s a short walk to Iris Burn Waterfall that we followed to bring our day to a relaxing close. Our last day was the longest, with almost 14 miles of walking. Luckily it was much flatter, so the time passed pretty quickly. We wandered through open forests, along the beach, and finally across a massive swing bridge to signify the end of Kepler Track.

Looking back on this wet and cold trek, I’d do it again in a heartbeat (hopefully with better weather).

 

 




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Greg Balkin

Greg has his camera by his side and loves capturing the whole story. He dedicates himself to shooting wedding and adventure photography.
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