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April 2015 Issue
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On the way home

A walker is dwarfed by mountains of rock in Gertrude Valley.
4-6hr return
Park off the Milford Highway, about a kilometre before the Homer Tunnel (signposted).

Gertrude Valley, Fiordland National Park

The walk to Gertrude Saddle is most certainly my favourite day walk.

Starting from the already impressive Milford Road, the trail wanders up the majestic glacier-carved Gertrude Valley; the walker dwarfed by towering walls of rock.

At the head of the valley, the track zigzags through loose rock, beside a cascading stream which tumbles to the valley floor. With remarkable speed, the great slabs of granite that seemed so far away are reached. It’s then a clamber up a series of ledges and angles, stepping over deep fissures in the ancient rock. Black Lake, a foreboding name for an awe-inspiring location, is reached and a short scramble later the world suddenly falls away beneath your feet as a view that would rival the finest on the planet presents itself at the airy saddle.

Back in the valley, as we wandered to the road amongst the rockery, cloud flowed quickly down the ranges, parting over a spur and disappearing before it could settle like a great white river pouring over an unfathomably large boulder.

The sun bursting through the cloud gave dramatic relief to the topography and I couldn’t decide whether it was best to be on top looking down, or at the bottom peering up.

– Jason Blair