Milford Track off the Beaten Months

MacKinnon Pass

Finally, after two years of weather spotting, we walked the famous Milford Track “off season”.

Tarns dotted MacKinnon Pass

Milford Track is probably the most famous track in New Zealand. It is located in Fiordland – the beautiful land of contrast. It is also the region that’s notorious of its rainfall, cold temperature, and sand flies. During the warmer months, there’s a booking system in place because so many people near and far want to walk the track each year. Kiwi Bird and I wanted to do it “off season” for many reasons, and finally found the perfect weather for doing it in May. You can find very good info on Milford Track on the DOC website.

In less in a month, the entire basin will be filled with snow and the track will be covered in avalanche in many places.

The cliffs drop off at sharp angles, and many waterfalls adorn the cliff faces.

The great Sutherlands Fall (580m) drops from a tarn like the one in the previous photo, albeit a much larger tarn!

Looking towards Clinton Valley we travelled yesterday, no wonder it was such a cold walk before reaching the pass!

The valley was so quiet, and the weather was beautiful and calm.

Lake Ada

Trees are often covered in frilly moss on the track.

Finally, the track ends at Milford Sound where we waited for a boat.

Many trampers boots took their final rest here. (Many were ingeniously taped up!)

I’m very glad I get to show you these photos. I nearly lost 3+ days worth because the extreme cold temperature killed my camera battery at one stage and caused a data writing error. Luckily Kiwi Bird who’s wonderful with computers salvaged the files from the memory card. We talked to other trampers who previously tramped in wintery Patagonia and Nepal. When I said “brrrr” to them, I was surprised to hear them tell me Fiordland in May felt just as cold if not colder… And we had sunshine with us for 4 days!

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7 thoughts on “Milford Track off the Beaten Months

  1. I was lucky enough to walk the Milford Track when I was about 15 years old, it was an amazing experience.
    We’d just been helping out with the muster on a friends farm so we’d been tramping hills solidly prior, so being super fit, found the Milford a doddle, but I can’t say the same for many of our fellow walkers, one of which had to be quickly boated down the rapids of the Arthur river by the guides because he had hyperthermia and another got piggy-backed from the top of the pass to Quintin because she was so unfit she couldn’t carry on.

    We had the added excitement that a fast moving and unexpected snow storm moved in (yes it was summer) and gale force winds meant they had to get everyone off the Pass as quickly as possible, it was literally a day where the weather went from blue skies to snow in under two hours.
    It closed in so quick that it was too dangerous for helicopters to come in and airlift people off the Pass.
    My family stayed by some swiftly rising streams and helped people get across holding logs as we’d had experience with river crossings in the bush, when we started the water was around our ankles and later when we left it was at our knees, when the last guides came down it was waist deep.

    It rained buckets and was an amazing experience. I’d love to do it all again… in dry weather!

    • Great Walks are called “walks” for a reason. The tracks are so well graded, they are a highway compare to the back country tramps. Milford in particular is a very flat track. Good thing the scenery is not proportional to its difficulty. However there are many back country tramps I’d rate equally highly for the landscapes.

      Weather does play a big part in tramping! That’s why we didn’t want to do any Great Walks in season. You have to book months in advance these days, the huts are expensive, and there’s no guarantee the weather’d be any good for the days you booked. Usually tramping in Fiordland involves some down pouring rain – it’s the real Fiordland! But I’d not want to tramp in non-stop rain the entire time with no view. We were truly lucky to find a good period of high pressure system virtually sitting on top of Fiordland last week. After looking at the forecast on Monday, we drove all the way on Tuesday, and got on the track on Wed. πŸ™‚

      I hope you do get around to do it again in good weather πŸ™‚ I think the track is even better graded now than when you did it (I heard from another tramper who’d done it years ago). DOC had put in steps for virtually the entire down hill section, making down hill a breeze. It really doesn’t feel like a real tramp with steps, but well, I guess it makes the scenery more accessible even for the casual travellers.

  2. Wow I’m jealous! When I got to New Zealand last August I didn’t have the chance to do any long hiking trails including the Milford Track. Your photos just pointed out to me what I’ve really missed out on by doing everything by car, well done πŸ˜‰ All the more reasons to go back and do a proper preparation and saving up for another trip. I did write a blog yesterday about I went about doing NZL on a budget on http://marlowtravels.wordpress.com/ including a brief note on Milford Sound. Enjoy your travels!

  3. Pingback: Backcountry Kiwi Cuisine | Imported Kiwi

  4. I did the Milford track on April 14, 2012! And we had four days of beautiful weather too! Luckily for us though, it rained at night and stopped during the day, so we saw some epic waterfalls! Please check out my report on it… I love looking at other people’s accounts of the track, coz its so great seeing their photos and saying “ive been there!” or “I recognise that!”
    Also it seems we have very similar pictures of Lake Ada! Which is pretty exciting!
    Love, Kendra πŸ™‚

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