‘Great Walking’ the Routeburn Track

Department of Conservation —  18/03/2013

Ranger Chris Hankin writes about his adventure along the Routeburn Track with the Air New Zealand Great Walkers.

In early March I had the privilege of joining the Air New Zealand Great Walkers for their tramp over the Routeburn Track. This was to be their fourth Great Walk, hot on the heels of completing the Milford Track just two days before.

Standing beside the Routeburn Track sign on a wet day.

A bit of a wet one

I was impressed by the group’s enthusiasm and energy. The second day of our walk was especially memorable. We camped the night before at Lake McKenzie and awoke to a perfect blue sky day. As we hiked across the spectacular ‘Hollyford Face’ we had uninterrupted views of the snow-capped Darran Mountains right out to Martins Bay on the west coast. Ahead of us was ‘Conical Hill’, which at 1,515 metres offered us even more exercise before rewarding us with incredible views of the surrounding landscape. After this highlight we slowly made our way down past Lake Harris to Routeburn Falls where we were treated to a night with Ultimate Hikes at Routeburn Falls Lodge.

The Great Walkers on the Routeburn Track.

Richard, Steph and Toshi

We enjoyed meeting the guided trampers and hearing about their own journey over the Routeburn. Everyone reflected on the day, of the plants, birds, streams, lakes, mountains and glaciers we had all been treated to.

The experience reminded me of the first time I enjoyed the Routeburn Track (and other Great Walks such as the Kepler).

Toshi standing near Erland Falls.

Toshi at Erland Falls

Now I am working for DOC I appreciate the huge efforts that keeps everything running smoothly. However when I first walked these tracks I didn’t quite realise what went on ‘behind the scenes’. I simply found myself walking in an amazing environment. When I was with the Air NZ Great Walkers I was reminded that they were seeing the walk for the very first time.

Conical Hill on the Routeburn Track.

Conical Hill

I found that as our tramp progressed the less I needed to say to them, as they were enjoying taking it all in. After the walk one of the walkers said to me ‘to experience these places first hand redefines the meaning of special’. I am sure most people completing a Great Walk for the first time, wherever it is, come away feeling much the same.

Chris and the Great Walker team on the Routeburn Track.

Chris and the Great Walker team.