After a first gloomy day at Glenorchy, where I took the opportunity to dry up my belongings, I went for a walk in the surrounding mountains. From one day to the next, we jumped from winter to summer. When I left the campsite on the morning of Wednesday, February 15th, it was an absolutely splendid weather, hot with cicadas singing in the grass. Nothing alike the previous days.
I set course on the Whakaari Conservation Park, 2km away from Glenorchy where the Mt Judah Track and the Mt McIntosh Loop Track are located. I planned to do the second one with a first day to reach the hut at the top of a pass at 1464 meters, spend the night and go down the next day following the ridges to have magnificent views of the area. Alas, that did not happen according to my plans.
Day 1. February 2017 | 7.5 kilometers
The Whakaari Conservation Area, whose Maori name means “land elevated” covers 9400 hectares of rugged mountains covered with tussock where some sheep live in peace. From a geological point of view the area was of great importance during the 19th century. In fact, the ground is made of schist, inside of which is gold and scheelite, this one being a very resilient material, the demand was great in times of war. Many veins were discovered and the first scheelite treatment facility in these mountains was established in the early 1880s. During the First and Second World Wars, the mines of the region, Paradise and Mt Judah employed a large number of miners in order to maintain production.
I attack the climb under a blazing sun. The trail follows the old miners’ path and many explanations are available along the route. After a few meters of climb, the view of the valley unfolds, absolutely gorgeous. I pass the former treatment of scheelite then one of the mines and sinks into the mountains. Mt McIntosh appears in front of me and I can see on the mountain many zig-zags testifying of the intense processing activity of scheelite in the region. The Mount is named after William McIntosh, a shepherd who was the first to find scheelite in 1910 in the mountain.
I abandoned Mt Judah Track, which continues to follow the miners’ trail, to engage on Mt McIntosh Loop Track. The trail descends steeply to the Buckler Burn River, which I am supposed to cross to go up the other side of Mt McInstosh. Alas, impossible to cross! Following the previous two days of heavy rains, the river is very high and there is a lot of current. I try anyway without my bag but arrived in the middle, there is more than a meter of deep water and it becomes too dangerous. It is with great regret that I leave the rest of the path to go up from where I came. No second day on the ridge, no spectacular views of the area! My disappointment is huge.
I decide nevertheless, now that I am here, to continue on Mt Judah Track. A hut is at the top of the trail. The view will probably be less beautiful but it worth a try. I spend the afternoon climbing painfully under the sun, while passing several miners’ huts. As I tackle the last part of the ascent, at a much higher altitude than I thought, the Glenorchy’ valley unfolds before my eyes. The river Dart with its many small streams appears before my eyes and my mood goes up. What a view !
I finally arrive at Heather Jock Hut, also a former miners’ hut, perched high on the mountain at 1300m and I almost cry of joy! The corner is splendid, the hut is great and the view to die for. All my disappointment disappeared. I spend a long time exploring the surroundings while I am amazed at the beauty of the landscape. Quiet evening in my hut, perched on the peaks, only disturbed by … a little mouse !! She rumbles on all sides of the hut and the smell of my food interests her greatly. My sleep will be rather light, waking up several times to hunt the animal trying to penetrate my bag!
Day 2. February 2017 | 7.5 kilometers
The next day I witness the sunrise over the mountains in front of me. A lonely Kea makes its appearance and we spend a good time exchanging looks. He is trying to eat the rubbed on the roof of the hut. He follows my every move and every time I go away a little, he follows me!
I go down into the valley, caught by the sun and I meet a small group of sheep covered with an impressive layer of wool. The weather is splendid, there is not a single cloud in the sky. Back at the beginning of the hike, I go back to Glenorchy, finally very happy with my hike.
Summary: The Mt Judah Track takes about 5-6 hours. The Mt McIntosh Loop Track takes about 11 hours to complete the loop.
Location: South Island. The departure is from the Whakaari Conservation Car Park 2 km before Glenorchy.
Duration: If you feel adventurous, you can combine the two hikes and leave for 3 days.
Distance: 15km to Mt Judah Track and 18km to Mt McIntosh Track
_ in the area
Two days hiking through the ridges of the Fiordland Mountains and beautiful lakes. It is certainly the most beautiful of the three Great Walks of the region.
Hiking stories is a love letter to nature, to walking and camping. And to all that’s come with it: weather troubles, muscles pain and noisy tourists on the trails.
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