Earn the Burn
With a steep climb to the treeline, where waterfalls tumble down the sheer rock walls of 2300m peaks, the Glacier Burn Track is a portal to a rugged alpine world.
This seldom-visited tramp near Glenorchy is a perfect warm-up for the Greenstone-Caples, Rees-Dart or Routeburn tracks, or a great day trip in its own right. But with 506m altitude gain in just 3km, you have to earn the burn.
From the small roadside car park, the marked track almost immediately crosses the ankle-deep Glacier Burn Stream.
The track continues along the river flats for about 100m before entering beech forest. A thick carpet of ferns lines the forest floor and the well-formed track begins to climb. The incline soon steepens, following a ridge high above the Glacier Burn, which can be heard roaring below. Ferns give way to a thick blanket of moss and the forest becomes crowded with beech. Due to the incline, the tramp soon becomes a test of perseverance, but after about 45 minutes the gradient reduces and the rest of the climb is more manageable.
The forest becomes the domain of stunted mountain beech and there are a few small clearings suitable for camping close to the bushline. The jagged and snow-covered Humboldt Mountains soon come into view, seemingly just above the track. The trail continues through sparse mountain beech and the panorama of the Humboldts expands. On the left, numerous waterfalls tumble down a cliff face, dissolving into mist before reaching the ground. To the east, Glenorchy and the Richardson Mountains come into view across the valley.
From here, it’s possible to pick a path through a moraine field beside the Glacier Burn and explore the basin. In spring and winter, DOC advises against going beyond the bushline due to avalanche risk, but in the right conditions in summer you can reach high up into the valley.
The Bryant Glacier occupies 30ha in a cirque below Mt Bonpland (2343m), the highest point of the Humboldt Mountains, and feeds the Glacier Burn. Although you can’t see much of the glacier from the track, the landscape is nonetheless dramatic.
The glacier is named after the Bryant family, which established the nearby Kinloch Lodge in 1868. The lodge was initially called Glacier Hotel after the glacier.
We only saw four other day walkers when we visited on a sunny Saturday afternoon, which is incredible considering the popularity of nearby walks.