Stormy Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo, New Zealand

Not only am I drowning in computer work, but I’ve also had a pesky cold this week, so all I can do to post on my blog is to browse my hard drive for old photos, and pretend that I’m out in the mountains again.

This is a photo of Lake Tekapo on the South Island of New Zealand in November last year. I shot this at a quick pitstop during a drive from Arthurs Pass to Wanaka. The wind was howling and of all the shots I took this is the only one where the lupines weren’t completely blurred from being blown around like crazy.

Speaking of lupines, New Zealand must be the lupine capitol of the world! I’ve seen some nice lupines in other places, but in New Zealand I saw entire fields of them. And I mean huge broad fields plump full of them! Pink, purple, yellow… Of course I have no photos to prove it. The best fields I saw were near Te Anau, but unfortunately I was riding a bus at the time and I don’t think the other passengers would have appreciated it if I screamed to stop and wait while I tromped around on some farmer’s land with my camera. Apparently though, lupines aren’t even native to New Zealand, and are considered a pest plant. They sure are beautiful though.

New Zealand Gallery Is Live!

New Zealand photos

Somehow I’ve managed to sort through over 3200 photos in less than a week since I’ve been back! I’ve posted my favorite photos from my New Zealand trip on my gallery site… check it out!

The first few days back in Colorado I was whupped by the altitude and jetlag, or some nasty combination of the two. I’ve never really felt affected by the altitude before, but this time it nailed me good. Anyhow, during those days I just rested and made some good progress on my photos. Since then I’ve spent some really late nights plowing through them. Funny how it’s nearly impossible to resist this… it’s almost as fun as taking the photos!

Anyhow, enjoy the photos.

Milford Track

Sutherland Falls

Over the last four days I’ve been hiking the Milford Track, perhaps the most famous of New Zealand’s Great Walks. This walk belongs in its own class of Awesome, and all the other “Great Walks” I’ve been on should be renamed merely “Good Walks” in comparison. This is truly a world class hike!

The Milford Track starts from an arm of Lake Te Anau and heads up a long valley into the heart of the Fiordland mountains. The peaks rise up incredibly steeply from the forested valley below, and huge waterfalls pour off from the sheer rocky faces on all sides, one after the other. I’ve never seen so many waterfalls in an alpine setting… it is a true fantasyland.

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Fiordland

Milford Sound, Fiordland

Just got back to Te Anau after 3 days in the high mountains of Fiordland. I climbed up a fairly large peak directly up valley from Milford Sound, and spent over 12 hours up top soaking in the incredible view. I watched the sunset from up there, then because the snow was still wet from the afternoon heat, I was worried about downclimbing the large, steep, and exposed snowfield. So I waited until 1:00am when the snow was more frozen to descend. It was no problem though, because the weather was calm and I had fun taking long exposures of the southern stars and constellations.

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Te Anau, Luxmore Hut, More

As I mentioned in my last post, the town of Te Anau is at first glance similar to a small version of Wanaka – both on the eastern side of large lakes with mountains to the west.  However, while Wanaka is known for its proximity to several famous ski fields, Te Anau is the access point to three of the famous Great Walks – the Routeburn, Milford, and Kepler Tracks.

Two days ago I walked out of Te Anau and hiked a portion of the Kepler Track, up to the Luxmore Hut which sits just above bushline near a high ridgeline 1000 meters above the lake.  The “Luxmore” sounds like a fancy hotel name, and actually this hut is pretty fancy as far as huts go.  It has large windows and porches with views of the Murchinson mountains and Lake Te Anau, and like most of the Great Walks huts, it has stoves and flush toilets – luxury items to be sure.  Anyways, the weather forecast was not promising upon my departure, so my plan was to just hike to the hut, spend a day there dayhiking, then hike back down the third day.

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Routeburn Track

Safe Area

I’m safe in Te Anau right now after just getting back from four days on the Routeburn Track.  The Routeburn is one of New Zealand’s renowned “Great Walks”, and as such it has wide trails, huge huts, lots of people, and lots of signs telling the people where to go.

Since it is a one way hike with vast distances between the start and end points, I turned in my rental car, shipped one bag to Te Anau from Queenstown, and got a shuttle to the start. The trail itself is certainly spectacular, but it wasn’t necessarily THAT much better than all the other hikes I’ve been doing here. In fact some of my previous hikes were perhaps more amazing to me. Regardless, it was indeed a great walk, and I scored great weather yet again. I purposely booked two nights at the first hut (Routeburn Falls Hut), with the intent of doing some dayhiking exploring the second day, and that turned out to be a big advantage since the second day was pouring rain for the first half of the day. Worked out perfectly.

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Mt. Aspiring National Park

Matukituki

Mt. Aspiring

Over the last four days I’ve been tramping in Mt. Aspiring National Park near Wanaka.  I started in the Matukituki River valley, an idyllic mountain valley with green grass, turquoise river, soaring glacier-clad mountains, and waterfalls pouring down from the sides.  The bottom of the valley is used for sheep grazing, and while I normally am not too fond of these helpless little creatures, they sure do a good job of mowing the lawn, so to speak, resulting in beautiful grassy meadows.

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