Pompolona Lodge to Quintin Lodge
Feb 21, 2013
|Day 3 - Milford Track
Today is the day I wanted beautiful, sunny weather because we are hiking 9 miles, climbling 700 meters to MacKinnon Pass, and then down 900 meters to our next lodge. Half the weather forecast was correct, the "Fine" part wasn't. It should have said - "Bad and Getting Worse".
In rained during the night, but stopped by morning. Today we started hiking at 7:30 a.m. because it's a harder hike. The weather wasn't too bad at this point and we could see the pass. After a few hours we stopped at Mintaro Hut - where the unguided trampers stay. While enjoying a break at Mintaro Hut - the fog blows up the canyon! From this point on we will be in fog and have absolutely no view!!!
We started up the switchbacks, got above treeline (which is less than 3000' above sea level). The rain hit us, the fog got thicker, the wind was blowing, and all I could see was that the plants were really different above treeline, and there were some flowers. We got to MacKinnon Pass (around 3450') where Akiko served us hot drinks. We tried to take pictures, but it was silly because there is absolute no view. At this point Barb & I were together, towards the end of the pack, and we hiked over to the hut.
We had lunch at the hut, and since I was optimistic that the weather forecast would actually be right & it would clear, I stayed as long as I could at the hut. Well, it got worse. By the time we left it was raining sideways, so we hiked down on the west side of the divide, into the Arthur Valley & the Arthur River. Eventually it stopped raining (I guess this is the "Fine" part of the weather forecast), and the fog started lifting. It was beautiful here.
Quintin MacKinnon is the guy that scouted the route from Lake Te Anau to Milford Sound. There actually was a route there before him though, because the Maori used the route to get greenstone that they carved & traded. I think MacKinnon followed some of their route.
Once a route was established in the late 1800's, the tourists came in. They would hike the route to Milford Sound, spend the night in Milford Sound, then hike back to Lake Te Anau because there was no road connecting Milford Sound to anywhere. That road didn't come in till they finished the Homer Tunnel, and the road opened in 1954.
The route we followed down from MacKinnon Pass is different from the original route. Both routes follow a gorge with numerous waterfalls, but the current route has lots of stairs and ramps to make it safer.
I got to Quintin Lodge (named after Quintin MacKinnon) about 4:45 p.m. Barb had a guide with her, Hunter, and she got there about 5:30 p.m. She's never done anything like this before, and today was a challenging day. I know she's exhausted.
Barb & I ended up with our own room at Quintin Lodge so we could spread out our stuff. We just barely had happy hour when we were called for dinner. I had the rib eye steak. The guides gave us another slide show about tomorrow's hike. We chatted with other people for awhile and went to bed.
Tomorrow's weather forecast - guess - FINE!