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May 2013 Issue
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Dore Passed

At Dore Pass with a view of Lake Te Anau and Clinton Valley. Photo: Linda Jane Keegan
Te Anau-Milford Highway, near Murcott Burn
CB08, CB09

Glade House via Dore Pass, Fiordland National Park

There’s nothing like starting your day with a dawn crossing of the frigid snowmelt waters of Fiordland. Sanjay, Kendall, Lyn and I headed 100m downstream from the sign-posted car park on the Milford Road and forded the Eglinton River – a chilly welcome to our epic day ahead following the Dore Pass route to Glade House.

The pass is named for John Charles Benjamin Dore, a well known figure in the Te Anau and Manapouri area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He led the team who first navigated the route across the pass to Glade House and the start of the Milford Track, on which he was a chief guide for some time.

For us, aside from wet boots, it was a pleasant, albeit brief, interlude among the lupins and along the flats of the Eglinton Valley before we started our ascent. Kaka screeched overhead. We washed our boots at the trailhead, playing our part to prevent spreading didymo, and strode into the cover of beech forest.

It was a steep climb, but we felt a sense of satisfaction as we quickly gained height and the valley dropped away below. We caught glimpses of the mountains looming on the eastern side of the river while beams of early morning light filtered through the trees.

Our upward movement was paused as we sidled along a contour over fallen trees and uneven track before coinciding with the Murcott Burn. We tumbled out of the bush into sunlight and headed upstream, ducking in and out of it and along the riverside sprinkled with alpine flowers.

Then the going got really tough. We left the river and sidled along the slope before aiming for the pass itself, following the poled route. Despite my snacking, energy was fading as I trudged uphill wondering how I was going to find it in me to power on. It didn’t help having the added pressure of knowing we had to reach the wharf by 4.30pm to catch the boat back to Te Anau.

We had a lunch break just short of the pass and looked back at where we’d come from. The landscape was simply amazing; steep rocky faces, long threads of waterfalls, giant arms of snow reaching out from the shadows, the Murcott a tiny trickle swallowed by the gaping valley.

But the hard work really paid off when we reached the top of the pass. It took our breath away. Under an ominous sky, a dusting of snow on the mountains gave way to the dense green of the bush which slid into the Clinton Valley and the head of Lake Te Anau. Glade House was a collection of tiny boxes and the Clinton River snaked off into the distance. It’s the kind of view that reminds you why you toiled trying to get there in the first place.

We edged along the track which dropped away treacherously in places before heading directly downhill. Glade House still looked a long way off but we felt we were doing alright for time. There was no doubt I was the slow one of the group but the others were good motivators and we ploughed on together.

Eventually we reached the bushline where it was somehow both dry and also boggy underfoot. We squished our way through a clearing, spying alpine sundew along the way.

Zigzagging our way to Glade Burn felt like an eternity. We picked up speed as the track became clearer and we were taunted by the distant roar of the river. Finally we caught sight of it through the trees and soon enough we were sloshing our way across and onto the gentle, virtually flat, downhill slope to Glade House.

I had never been so glad to hear a generator as we approached, nor so grateful to be able to amble leisurely on a Great Walk track out to the wharf. It had taken us nine-and-a-half hours and we arrived with 15-minutes to spare. Just enough time for a refreshing plunge in the lake before heading home.

– Linda Jane Keegan

Note: Alpine skills/equipment may be required in winter/spring. Boat from Glade Wharf to Te Anau Downs can be booked through Real Journeys during the summer season