Looking at The Darran Mountains

This is our Routeburn experience walking from The Divide to Harris Saddle and back

The Routeburn Track on New Zealand’s south island has to be one of the most beautiful trekking experiences of our lives. There is just so much to love about this trek, from the spectacular views of the dramatic mountain ranges to the gorgeous forests, lakes and waterfalls. Each and every step along the way we were charmed by it’s beauty, the beauty of a truly magical walk which we will be talking about for a very long time to come.

Covering a distance of 32km and taking somewhere between 2 and 4 days to complete, trekkers on the Routeburn track are permitted to walk it in both directions starting from either ‘Routeburn Shelter’ or ‘The Divide’. As well as offering bunk accommodation across 4 huts (Routeburn Flats, Routeburn Falls, Lake Mackenzie and Lake Howden), the Routeburn track also provides trekkers with the option to camp at 2 non-powered campsites (Routeburn Flats and Lake Mackenzie).

Originally, we had planned to start our track from Routeburn Shelter finishing off at The Divide having booked our camp sites atΒ Routeburn Flats and Lake Mackenzie. This trek was arranged online via New Zealand Department of Conservation site. When we arrived at the Queenstown office to collect our dockets, unfortunately, we were advised that some section of the track weren’t safe enough to cross. There were severe weather issued few days prior resulted in avalanches spilled over the track around Harris Saddle. Harris Saddle is the mid and the highest section of the track at approx. 1300m. The officer gave us a couple of options. We were able to either cancel our booking and receive a full refund or to pursue our original itinerary and pay an additional fee to hire a private helicopter to take us over the avalanche area.

After receiving all necessary important information and advises at the office, we established that we could start our walk from one side reaching as far as Harris Saddle then returning the same way we came from. Opinions from previous trekkers suggested that walking in the direction from The Divide to Routeburn Shelter was the most preferred option. Although we did not have any clue the track conditions we trusted our instinct and chose the third option. That was to walk from The Divide to Harris Saddle and back.Β Yes, we were disappointed that we weren’t able to experience Routeburn Track in full. Although we were only ever reached the halfway mark, this magnificent walk did not let us down in anyway. The route we have chosen were right choice in this circumstances as many reviewers suggested.

The highlight for us was the walk from Lake Mackenzie to Harris Saddle on day 2. The 6 hours track one way were mostly facing the Hollyford Face with expansive views of Daran Mountains. We love this way as we were able to face into the panoramic views at all times during our trek. There were mostly windy narrow path on mountains shoulders and rocky grounds. That day we did 22.6km in total hike with steep climbs especially as we got closer to Harris Saddle. We reached Harris Saddle mid afternoon and stopped for lunch.

We continued a little further away from Harris Saddle to visit Lake Harris. It was a beautiful reward. We were captivated by the mysterious black coloured lake of Lake Harris. This alpine lake was a perfect little hideaway spot to take a short break and just to admire New Zealand’s nature. Lake Harris was our last stop before we had to head down back to our camping ground at Lake Mackenzie. Then back to The Divide the next day.

Our Routeburn Track Highlights:

Day 1: The Divide (at 530m) to Lake Mackenzie (at 890m). 12km. 5 1/2 to 6 hours. The main sight was Earland Falls (174m). Lunch stop was at Lake Howden hut.

Day 2: Lake Mackenzie to Harris Saddle (at 1255m) and back. 11.3km one way. Took us 7 1/2 hours not including lunch stop. Main sights are Hollyford Face, Lake Harris, and Daran Mountains. Lunch stop was at Harris Saddle hut.

Day 3: Lake Mackenzie to The Divide. 12km – descending. 4 hours to complete. Apart from a steep climb to the Key-Summit turn-off the rest of the track were flat and easy to do.

Note:Β 

  • Lake Mackenzie camping site was non powered. First in first served. There were a ranger who comes around to collect our tickets.
  • The campsite floor was an artificial grass on hard rock ground. Some site not always on a level ground.
  • No kitchen. One outdoor sitting area under a gazebo with a couple of trough and taps. No lighting provided.
  • Drop-down toilets only.

Photo Gallery

Lake Howden
1st Day walk. Arrived at Lake Howden after 1.5h walk from The Divide
Leaving Lake Howden
Leaving Lake Howden. Going deeper into the forest.
Beautiful forest walk at Routeburn track
Beautiful forest walk at Routeburn track
Earland Falls, 174m. Right on the path.
Earland Falls, 174m. Right on the path.
Routeburn Track view from The Divide towards Lake Mackenzie
Routeburn Track view from The Divide towards Lake Mackenzie
Trekking the Routeburn Track
Trekking the Routeburn Track
Few hundred metres away to Lake MacKenzie
Few hundred metres away to Lake MacKenzie
So many different plants. Beautiful colours near Lake MacKenzie
So many different plants. Beautiful colours near Lake MacKenzie
Lake Mackenzie, NZ
Lake Mackenzie, NZ
Gorgeous rainbow above Lake Mackenzie on day 1 at Routeburn Track
Gorgeous rainbow above Lake Mackenzie on day 1 at Routeburn Track
Starting day 2. Glorious day at Lake Mackenzie
Starting day 2. Glorious day at Lake Mackenzie
Entering forest. Heading towards Harris Saddle
Entering forest. Heading towards Harris Saddle
Climbing up towards Harris Saddle
Climbing up towards Harris Saddle
First view out of the forest from Lake Mackenzie
First view out of the forest from Lake Mackenzie
Amazing Routeburn Track
Amazing Routeburn Track
Resting on Routeburn Track.
Resting on Routeburn Track
Above Lake Mackenzie
Above Lake Mackenzie
Dodging snow avalanche leftovers from stormy weather few days back
Dodging snow avalanche leftovers from stormy weather few days back
Continuing towards Harris Saddle
Continuing towards Harris Saddle
New Zealand South Island mountains and nature
New Zealand South Island mountains and nature
More snow on Routeburn Track
More snow on Routeburn Track
Trekking the Routeburn Track, NZ
Trekking the Routeburn Track, NZ
Tasman Sea in the distance
Tasman Sea in the distance
The Darran Mountains, Routeburn Track
The Darran Mountains, Routeburn Track
Getting closer to Harris Saddle. Less than 1 hour to go
Getting closer to Harris Saddle. Less than 1 hour to go
Windy and narrow path on Routeburn Track
Windy and narrow path on Routeburn Track
Harris Saddle on Routeburn Track. New Zealand South Island
Harris Saddle on Routeburn Track. New Zealand South Island
Harris Saddle and The Darran Mountains
Harris Saddle and The Darran Mountains
Lake Harris, NZ
Lake Harris, NZ
The gorgeous alpine lake of Lake Harris
The gorgeous alpine lake of Lake Harris
Leaving Lake Harris heading back to Lake Mackenzie
Leaving Lake Harris heading back to Lake Mackenzie
Climbing down from Harris Saddle towards Lake Mackenzie
Climbing down from Harris Saddle towards Lake Mackenzie
Made it back to Lake Mackenzie on Day 2
Made it back to Lake Mackenzie on Day 2
Routeburn Track Day 3. Leaving Lake Mackenzie early morning
Routeburn Track Day 3. Leaving Lake Mackenzie early morning
Foggy morning on Routeburn track. Avalanche danger zone - no stopping allowed
Foggy morning on Routeburn track. Avalanche danger zone – no stopping allowed
Cold morning walk on Routeburn Track
Cold morning walk on Routeburn Track
Foggy but beautiful
Foggy but beautiful
Fog adding more drama on Routeburn Track
Fog adding more drama on Routeburn Track
Re-entering the forest heading towards The Divide, NZ
Re-entering the forest heading towards The Divide, NZ
Half way to The Divide from Lake Mackenzie. NZ
Half way to The Divide from Lake Mackenzie. NZ
Beautiful hidden waterfalls on Routeburn Track, NZ
Beautiful hidden waterfalls on Routeburn Track, NZ
Plenty to admire on Routeburn Track. Clean water as source of drinking water on the track
Plenty to admire on Routeburn Track. Clean water as source of drinking water on the track

What did we bring with us:

  • 40L back pack plus waterproof cover
  • Hiking tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Walking poles
  • Gore-Tex trekking shoes with spare shoe laces
  • Indoor slippers/walking sandals
  • Woolen socks for night time
  • 2 pairs of thick socks and 1 pair of thin socks for trekking
  • Rain and windproof jacket and pants
  • Hat and beanie
  • Warm gloves, 1 thick scarf
  • 1 duck down jacket
  • 1 soft shell insulated jacket
  • 2 pairs of thermal tops
  • 1 thermal pants to wear at night
  • -8 degree sleeping bags
  • A set of comfy clothes to sleep in
  • 2 quick dry long sleeve tops
  • 2 quick dry short sleeve tops
  • 2 quick dry long pants
  • 1 fleece jacket
  • 1 fleece pants
  • Small quick dry towel
  • Small foldable backpack
  • 1L bottle water with water purifications tablets (1 tablet per litre) – we drank fresh river and stream water along the way
  • Insect repellant, sunscreen, sunglasses, lip balm, antibacterial wipes, antibacterial hand sanitiser and pocket tissues
  • Walking poles
  • Solar phone charger
  • Cameras, spare batteries, spare SD cards, lens cleaner, tripod.
  • 2 plastic bags (1 for dirty clothes, 1 for rubbish)
  • Foldable day back pack
  • Head torch
  • Cooking Gear: pot, small pans, cups, bowls (we used collapsible ones), plates, cutleries (fork, spoon, knife 1 each), small knife with cover, matches, tea towels, hiking stove and small gas canister,
  • Food: Breakfast; quick oats, bananas, dried fruits & nuts. Snacks; dried fruits, mix trail but bars, small chocolate bars (snickers or bounty), lollies. Lunch; quick noodles with boiled egg (previously boiled), tea and coffee, apples, cheese, crackers & salami sticks. Dinner: Packs of instant rice with tuna, hiking ready made food (chicken and rice, beef stew, lamb and potato mash etc), cookies & a cup of tea
  • Toiletries: Body & face wipes, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrush, hairbrush, face wash, moisturiser, hair ties
  • First aid kit: Panadol, Iburprofen, motion sickness tablets, diarrhoea tablets, bandaids, antiseptic cream, ankle & knee straps (scissors etc from the first aid kit)

 

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