The weather is on another great cycle, and when I check the long-term forecast it seems good for the next eight days, except for one big dump, halfway through this period. Seems as good as any time to have a hack at the Hollyford.

I’ve heard from one guy that he couldn’t get through the Routeburn Track last week due to snow, and the Milford Track has a major issue currently with avalanches. At least with the Hollyford you know there are no issues with snow or avalanches, and it seems that unless it buckets down for a week it’s relatively flood proof as well. So that’s why it’s on the top of my current List Of Places To Go.

I’ve done the shopping and removed some items from my pack: that ice axe is not required for starters, the highest Hollyford hut, tonight, is at 60m so ice is somewhat improbable, except as seen from the valley floor in the glaciers on the Darran Mountains, and there is plenty up there, Mt Tutoki is 2723m; my new tripod has gone, I’m using my new walking stick as a photographic monopod in the forest and huts, it’s fully height adjustable, and using the two second delay function to try to avoid camera shake/blur; my long johns and minor clothing discards.

I’ve 14 days food aboard but otherwise I’ve seldom travelled with such minimal gear, abandoned at my Te Anau lodgings where they are getting used to my presence now.

It’s been a minimal break from the Kepler, two nights here in Te Anau, just the one full day, I’ve only until Labour Weekend, about four weeks, before the cost of doing the Routeburn and Milford gets prohibitive, ie, $54 a night, as opposed currently just using my Backcountry Hut Pass from DOC, a full year’s free huts for $122. I’m intending to get my money’s worth.

I’ve arranged a ride to the end of the road for the gentleman’s hour of 10am, that’ll give enough time for another trip to the supermarket, and a few cups of coffee before lift off. It’s only 2.5 hours to the first hut and not worth marching on to the second one, around four hours further on.

We stop at a lookout near The Divide, the low pass separating water from flowing into Lake Te Anau, or into the Hollyford valley to the west, to take in some vantage points, the big valley straight out in front, where the Routeburn Track winds around up on the tops to the right. That gets this area of the world in perspective. My ride is to the end of the gravel road, 18 km, you turn off before the tunnel to Milford. There’s a rather speccy waterfall to divert to, only half an hour, the Humboldt Falls drop 280m in three discrete sections, very fine, it’s worth the sidetrip.

Then it’s strapping that two weeks of food onto your back and launching.

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