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Talbot’s Ladder, Fiordland National Park

On the ridge above Talbot's Ladder with Gertrude Valley and Milford Road below. Photo: Peter Laurenson
2.39km from Homer Tunnel to the summit of McPherson
Total Ascent
4-8hr to Mt McPherson depending on conditions and time of year
Homer Hut ($35 (non-NZAC members), 30 bunks)
From Homer Hut take the road to the south end of Homer tunnel
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Talbots Ladder.Fiordland NP (gpx, yo 9 KB)
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It’s true: a ladder (of sorts) does lead to one of New Zealand’s most dramatic alpine landscapes. But don’t be deceived; while ‘Ladder’ implies a set of steep orderly steps, Talbot’s Ladder is considerably more challenging in winter conditions. This is a place demanding respect. It’s very steep, very exposed, and very cold.

On the upside, subject to weather and snow conditions, access is easy. Just drive the fabulously scenic Milford Road to Homer Hut, then follow the trail from the car park into McPherson Cirque. The trail soon joins a boulder field.

It’s a relatively short climb, first to Homer Saddle then up about 300 vertical metres on Talbot’s Ladder, which gives access to a much wider, more gradual snow ridge leading to the summit of Mt McPherson (1931m).

In winter, Talbot’s Ladder requires several pitches over slippery rock, snow and ice, with yawning drops on both sides. In summer conditions, it’s a steep, exposed rock scramble. Once on the ridge, it’s time to enjoy the ever more spectacular and panoramic views.

From the summit of McPherson is a view of precipitous ridges and peaks in every direction, including the route down and then up again to Traverse Pass (1987m).

From the pass, you can descend to Gertrude Saddle and then walk out to Homer Hut – a circuit claimed by many to be the finest day walk in New Zealand.

In summer, the whole circuit takes about eight hours, but in winter it could be up to 14 hours.