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September 2015 Issue
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Lakes make the trip in Fiordland

Descending to Green Lake. Photo: David Barnes
12.5km (not included side trips to Mt Burn and Clark Hut)
Total Ascent
Borland Saddle to Green Lake Hut, 4.5hr; Side trip to Mt Burn, 2hr return; Green Lake Hut to Clark Hut, 4hr; Clark Hut to Borland Rd, via Historic Clark Hut, 4hr
Green Lake Hut, 12 bunks; Clark Hut, three bunks
Borland Saddle, at Pt990 on Borland Road
GPX File
Green Lake Hut via tops (gpx, yo 161 KB)
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Green Lake Hut via tops, Fiordland National Park / moderate

After a night at Lake Monowai, my carload of trampers headed up the Borland Road, which was built as an access route for the transmission lines from the Manapouri power scheme. Although the lines are a hideous blot on the landscape, the silver lining is a road that saddles just below the bushline. A sign at Borland Saddle describes the biggest known landslip in the world, when 27 cubic kilometres fell off the side of the Hunter Mountains some 12,000 years ago, forming the lakes we were about to visit.

From the saddle, a good track leads to the bushline in 15 minutes. The views here are more than enough to justify the effort for anyone passing by without the inclination to walk further. Before long, Island Lake reveals itself, with the Merrie Range on the skyline beyond the Grebe Valley. The route, which is only lightly marked and eventually peters out, meanders past a few tarns which would provide acceptable campsites in reasonable weather. There’s a short steepish section and then we could see our advance guard, with two crossing the ridge towards Green Lake and the other four heading across a saddle towards Mt Burns. Dropping packs, we headed after the summit group, catching up with them not far below the summit, at a spot with a view down a series of lakes at the head of Pig Creek. The last couple of hundred metres along the ridge is a bit of a scramble.

Returning to our packs, we crossed the ridge to our first look at the full extent of Green Lake, some 600m below. We had a lengthy lunch break by the first tarn we came to. From here, two possible routes can be taken. One involves a descent south to the saddle on the track over from Lake Monowai; the other a knee-jarring plunge to flats near the lake. We chose the latter. The flats are deceptively slow travel, with deep watercourses hidden amongst the tussock, but eventually, the 12 bunk Green Lake Hut is reached. By the time our last two companions arrived via the Monowai Track, the hut was buzzing with conversation and culinary masterpieces.

Decisions had to be made about our route out. The Lake Monowai Track is largely through bush and not overly interesting. The direct route to Borland Road via Island Lake had more appeal to some, although made for a very short day. With one serious hut-bagger in the group, I knew the mention of two huts in the head of the Grebe, a side trip from Island Lake, would make his choice a foregone conclusion. And so four of us were away early, heading along the shore of Green Lake before climbing over the ridge separating it from Island Lake.

At Island Lake, we ditched most of our gear and headed west. Our route followed the outlet stream, losing 300m in the next couple of hours. As the track levelled out, we completely missed the track junction marked on the map, so continued on the left fork towards Clark Hut.

After an early lunch, we then visited Historic Clark Hut, half an hour or so away. The hut is of slab construction and was built by deer culler Archie Clark in the 1940s.

The serenity of the area was interrupted briefly by a low, fast pass by a couple of military jets (presumably Australian), which roared up the Grebe and over the low saddle towards Lake Monowai.

After battling our way across the flats to regain the track, we were faced with retracing our steps up the stream to Island Lake. Full packs on our backs once more, we found the route out to the road to be a pleasant meander, largely in bush with a couple of flats to break it up. One of the flats contained a lake we’d seen from near the saddle the day before. It shows definite signs of having been larger in the past, as there’s a clear tideline of trees about 100m up the surrounding slopes. The small Borland Bivouac – a bonus for our hut-bagger – marked the start of road walking, with a slog up the zigzag to Borland Saddle to end a great couple of days.