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August 2012 Issue
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Earl Mountains

The Earl Mountains. Photo: Pat Barrett
Fiordland National Park

The Earl Mountains lie within Fiordland National Park at the northern end of Lake Te Anau, flanking its western side, with the Milford Highway running beneath its eastern faces and tributaries.

Straddling such notable terrain as this you can be sure that any trips along or over the range will be verging on the extreme side of adventure and in some of the most spectacular scenery to be found in New Zealand. This is no idle claim: the Milford Track begins at the mid-point of the range on its western flank, and one of the range’s key crossings deposits adventurous trampers right at Glade House, the Milford Track’s first hut.

1. Milford Track

New Zealand’s best known Great Walk begins on the western side of the Earl Mountains at the head of Lake Te Anau. The track is accessible by boat from Te Anau Downs and day walkers are permitted, on a casual basis, to walk the lower Clinton Valley. This option could also be used to access more remote sections of the range for overnight trips back to, or from, the Milford Highway.

2. Dore Pass

A classic crossing point on the range, Dore Pass is a steep, moderately exposed marked route from the Eglinton Valley to Glade House. It is accessed by fording the Eglinton River to the Murcott Burn. Special care is required on the western flanks of the pass and if snow lies on the route this becomes an alpine crossing.

3. Glade Pass

The Glade Burn enters the Clinton River at Glade House and could be used for a return route back to the Milford Road. The route is straightforward but some steep, shale bluffs need to be sidled on the northern side of the pass.

4. U Pass

This steep, spectacular pass links upper Mistake Creek to Hut Creek, both of which are tributaries of the Eglinton River. The catchments are tracked to the bushline and the entire route could be walked in a fine day over the summer months, providing a challenging trip into the heart of the range.

5. Eglinton Valley

Spacious and beautiful, the Eglinton is the one of the showpiece valleys of the Milford Highway and is also renowned for the roadside and riverside camping sites scattered along its length.

6. Lake Te Anau

The South Island’s largest lake borders much of the northern section of Fiordland National Park and almost the entire western side of the Earl Mountains. It provides motor boat or canoe access to many remote coves and valleys along this side of the range. Experienced trampers will be able to pick out some good access spurs from the lake to the range crest.

7. Lake Gunn

The Milford Highway runs along the eastern shore of Lake Gunn, offering access for fishing and canoeing. There is a nature walk at the lake’s southern end and a camping and picnic area at the northern end. The lake’s setting is magnificent.

8. Melita Creek

This small creek flows into Lake Gunn midway along its western shore. It is a hanging valley, granting access to the Main Divide just north of the Earl Mountains and an unmarked crossing over the Divide to Falls Creek. The descent is steep and care is required.

9. Falls Creek

Best known for its spectacular waterfall which can be seen from the Milford Highway, Falls Creek also has a track which climbs to the valley headwaters and Main Divide peaks of Mt Suter, the Pyramid and Ngatimamoe Peak.

10. Skelmorlie Peak

This peak, just south of Dore Pass, can be reached by those with moderate climbing skills. A careful route must be chosen to find a way through bluffs to reach the upper mountain.

11. Mt Eglinton

Best reached from the shores of Lake Te Anau via a long, moderately angled spur, Mt Eglinton (1854m) is a stunning viewpoint.