The Routeburn

Day Two (part 2): Along the Hollyford face

Of course once you get to the Harris Saddle and your journey doesn’t end there. You then have to hike south along the face of the Hollyford range to get to Mackenzie lake hut, if that’s where you’re overnighting. Now the mud map shows a gentle decline all the way to Mackenzie… The reality? Well it’s a long couple of hours in the sun slogging across ridges as you work your way southwards along the face. Take your sunscreen, even with a kepi the back of my neck got fried. The great consolation of this leg of the hike is the magnificent views down the valley to Martins Bay and the Tasman Sea beyond. Finally we rounded the last ridge line and there was Lake Mackenzie below us. A moment of reflection before we commited to a steep knee hammering set of zig-zags down through the quiet beech forest to Lake Mackenzie hut.

Mackenzie Hut sits right on the edge of the lake and by mid afternoon it’d started to fill up with guests for the night. Hint, get your name on the bunk roster as soon as you arrive. As the day was warm and the lake looked invitingly cool I decided to go for a swim and wash the grime off. Oh yeah, it was cool alright. The sort of cool that takes your breath and stops your heart for a beat. After a short bone freezing swim I emerged an interesting shade of pink (apparently).

In the evening Evan Smith the Hut ranger came around and gave a fascinating talk on his project to set up a wall of stoat traps to preserve the native birds, which the stoats as an introduced species have decimated. His program extends the existing trapping program in the adjacent Fjordkand park into the Hollyford valley and eventually to link up with other trap lines. You do notice how much quieter the forests are on this side of the range, so I reckon it’s worth donating to sustain the project if you have cash on you. Evan’s story, reminded me a lot of The Man who Planted Trees, it’ll be interesting to come back in a couple of years to see what changes this has wrought in the local ecosystem. After the talk we got our tickets checked and it was off to bed. Early start tomorrow so that we can get off the mountain in time to make our transport to Milford sound.

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