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April 2013 Issue
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Borland Saddle’s magic tops

Great views from the summit of Mt Burns. Photo supplied
6-7 hr
You can wander around the tops and drop down the east ridge to Green Lake Hut at the bush edge on the north east edge of Green Lake. Stay the night and tramp out west via Island Lake or east via the Walker River on the DOC track. From the Borland Saddle there is also easy access onto the vast untracked Hunter Mountains
From the Blackmount/Clifton Road turn-off go towards Monowai but go straight ahead to the Borland Lodge. The Borland Road climbs gradually on a good gravel surface from Borland Lodge to the Borland Saddle where there is a car park and toilet


Mount Burns, Fiordland National Park

We parked at the top of Borland Saddle as the valley mist rolled over us and through the stunted dripping beech forest festooned with old mans beard. A clan of slightly bedraggled keas joined us with their unruly antics and inquisitive strutting forays towards our packs, boots and walking poles. Calling loudly to each other they played tag between the tree tops until the control tower cleared them for flight. In a little over an hour the mist had lifted and the last loitering kea had gone in search of breakfast.

We climbed up the narrow track that goes south from the saddle over a mesh of stout roots and windfall to the tree line, where glistening snowgrass shone in the soft morning light. Ditte and I headed steeply up the ridge on a poled route to a basin of beautiful reflective tarns mirroring the surrounding peaks. The view to our west took in the Grebe Valley with its extensive wetlands upstream of Shallow Lake and the snaking Grebe River which headed south to its source.

With open tops ahead we continued south east up the ridge line dodging the occasional spaniard and admiring the flowering daisies almost hidden amongst the snow grass. We reached the high point (1475m) at the south end of this ridge in time for a snack and to enjoy the expansive view extenuated by its steep southern aspect. To the south, Island Lake and Green Lake contrasted stunningly with the surrounding beech forest and tongue of yellow tussock. Both could be easily accessed from an adjacent ridge that wanders in their direction a little further along from the high point..

We continued around this large cirque to its boulder-strewn end, where a vertical drop plummets down to a long narrow unnamed lake that feeds Pig Creek and eventually crosses the Borland Road near the lodge. We carried on up to Mt Burns, crossing innumerable soft snow drifts busy melting below the summer sun and sending rivulets of melt water across the alpine herb fields. Mt Burns, 1645m, marks the high point and west end of a short range that for all the world looks like it had fallen off the bottom of the Hunter Mountains.

It was a clear day over all of Fiordland and from Mt Burns we spotted the Hope Arm of Lake Manapouri along with the Shag Point end of Lake Monowai shimmering in the heat haze. The Takatimu Mountains and farm country from Tuapapere to Te Anau spread out beyond the Fiordland National Park boundary and I am pretty sure we could see the sea where the earth curves towards Stewart Island.

After lunch we dropped below the peak to check out a series of hanging tarns and their resident icebergs. There were plenty of wild flowers collecting insects and following the sun. Some large alpine shrubs were taking advantage of the ample water supply and sheltered nooks and crannies amongst the boulder field that surrounded these tarns. We finally back-tracked to the Mt Burn ridge and then wandered west following the main stream and its catchment to finally intersect the last marker pole for the short descent through the lower tarns and down the steep ridge to our vehicle.

A fine day on the tops in this part of the world should be savoured as Fiordland rains more than it shines. We enjoyed ourselves and will be back for more sunshine and tops.