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May 2012 Issue
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Quiet above the Sounds

Looking down to Milford Sound from Gerturude Saddle just after sunrise. This is just metres from the open doorway of the tent
From Homer Hut on SH94 Milford Road
Topo50 CB09

Gertrude Saddle, Fiordland National

Just two hours’ easy tramp from Milford Road will have you in the centre of the Darran Mountains – one of the most amazing mountain ranges in New Zealand noted for its tall, weathered granite peaks that seem to stretch forever.

I’ve pitched my tent on Gertrude Saddle, just 10 paces from a 1000m-vertical drop to the Hollyford Valley floor. Off in the distance, at the head of the valley and just hidden by low mist, is Milford Sound. To the west of Gertrude Saddle is Mt McPherson; to the east Barrier Knob; Mt Crosscut to the south and way off to the north is 2723m Mt Tutoko.

Strangely, being here feels both confined and spacious.

Getting top this majestic spot is easy. Tramp up the Hollyford Valley from Homer Hut and take the steep path to Black Lake, nestled under bare granite walls. Cables lead the way up slabs above and around the lake. There’s a boulder field of giant granite blocks with white flowered mountain daisies and leafy yellow dolichoglottis lyallii growing in the seepage in between.

Then, quiet dramatically, you find yourself standing in tussock on a saddle 1400m above Milford Sound with a view quite unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

– Fraser Crichton

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