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Cleughearn Peak loop, Fiordland National Park

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October 2020 Issue

Accessible Fiordland

On the eastern edge of Fiordland National Park, Cleughearn Peak offers spectacular views in all directions.

The trip starts on the well maintained Green Lake Track and is easy to follow, although it can be muddy. The surrounding beech forest is open and mossy, with tall crown fern. The track steadily climbs toward the saddle to the north-east of Mt Cuthbert, where we had a lovely lunch break beside Walker River.

From here, there’s about 10-minutes of easy bush-bashing to the bushline just to the west of Pt974.

The next obstacle is the scrub belt. We sidled across Mt Cuthbert’s eastern flanks but with the benefit of hindsight, I would recommend going up and over the peak. We faced several steep-sided gullies, choked with scrub and eventually rejoined the ridge between Pt1169 and Pt1430 from where there are sweeping views to the west over Green Lake and the Grebe Valley.

Travel here is easy and fast.

The climb up and over Pt1430 is a fun and easy scramble, although there was a fair bit of exposure along the knife-edge ridge.

After crossing Pt1382, we dropped down and made camp by a small stream in the open basin overlooking the Devil’s Punchbowl Lake (a large tarn unnamed on maps). As the light faded over the Takitimu Mountains to the east, we reflected upon a satisfying day.

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Walking south along the ridge to Rdoger Inlet Track. Photo: Erwan Coq

We rejoined the ridge and began the traverse over Rocky Top (1450m). Several small tarns came into view, some still fully frozen over despite a warm August. We dropped our packs just below Pt1490 to race up Cleughearn Peak (1578m). The western end of Lake Monowai comes into view, and there’s a pretty waterfall coming down off the Kaherekoau Mountains.

The rest of the morning was a breeze as we followed the ridge to Pt1453 and  on southward, along gently rolling tussocks tops. In the early 1900s, these hillsides were grazed by sheep – what would it have been like to be a shepherd back then?

The clouds roiled below, teasing us  with partial views of the lake. By early afternoon, we found the orange trail markers which lead into the forest and down to Rodger Inlet Huts. It’s steep at first, but this track is in excellent condition.

After a late lunch at the hut, we pressed on. The track follows the lakeshore for a couple of kilometres before heading inland and through lovely forest.

At Walker River, the track passes through some impressive evidence of past flooding, before gradually climbing to follow a higher terrace and rejoining the Green Lake Track.

Rain began to fall as we neared the junction, and half an hour later we arrived at our van in a downpour, rounding out a classic Fiordland experience.

– Tarsh Turner

Distance
34.7km
Total Ascent
2584m
Grade
Easy / Moderate
Time
Car park to saddle, 4-5hr; To campsite, 2-3hr; To Rodgers Inlet Hut, 5-7hr; To car park 4-6hr
Access
Lake Monowai Road end car park
Map
CE07

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