FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Key Summit

Posted in Milford Sound, New Zealand, Te Anau by folkestonejack on December 29, 2015

The road north from Te Anau offers many wonderful sights that are easily slotted in to a trip to Milford Sound, but it is worth building in some additional time to take in the hike up to Key Summit, which New Zealand Tourism has described as the best Fiordland day walk. It was one of the first things on my list when we started making plans for a trip to the South Island and I certainly didn’t regret it!

The path to Key Summit

The path to Key Summit

The walk takes you up a short section of the three-day long Routeburn Track (one of New Zealand’s nine Great Walks) which curves upwards at a steady angle, making it an easy-ish walk to tackle. On this stretch the track offers a beautifully shaded path, under the forest canopy, which features a delightful waterfall and just enough glimpses of the mountains to encourage you onward.

About an hour into the walk you hit a clearly marked signpost indicating the short uphill track up to Key Summit (taking you away from the Routeburn Track) and from here on in the views just get better and better. As you climb above the treeline it is impossible not to be stunned by the incredible beauty that surrounds you – it is fair to say that I’ve never taken a hike that delivered a punch quite like this.

I took the trek up at a speedier pace than I should have, for fear of the clouds closing back in but I really needn’t have worried. The skies had largely cleared by the time I had cleared the treeline, though the few that lingered between the forest floor and the mountain peaks presented a wonderful sight in their own right as they mingled with the tree tops.

The view towards Mt Crosscut/Paekaru

The view towards Mt Crosscut/Paekaru

It is hard to imagine that the view from the top has many rivals – the 360 degree panoramic views over the Humboldt and Darran Mountains are simply breath-taking.

The summit also has the delights of an alpine nature walk leading up to a spectacular lookout with a view across to Lake Marian, a glacial tarn, with three peaks as a backdrop (Mt Christina/Te Taumata o Hinepipiwai, Mt Crosscut/Paekaru and Mt Lyttle/Puairuru). In absorbing this visual treat it’s easy to forget that all of this was carved by a glacier many thousands of years ago – what an achievement for a slow moving block of ice and rock!

At a reasonable pace the walk should take around three hours to the summit and back again, allowing plenty of time to soak up the view and take hundreds of photographs. I shaved a fair bit off that in my mad uphill dash, but I’m sure it is much more enjoyable if you don’t try repeating that!

Gallery

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