Friday, February 6, 2009

Kepler Tramp: High Road/Low Road


A DOC Heli Lands at Luxmore Hut Just as I Arrive

Luxmore Summit from the Kepler Track

Summit View Toward Te Anau

Self-Portrait

We divided forces for the Kepler Tramp. Vicki's knees needed a lighter work-out and definitely not the 3,000 foot ascent to the Kepler's Luxmore Hut. So, on Tuesday, she did the lower, level part of the tramp, from Rainbow Reach to the Moturau Hut, over-nighting there, and returning to Te Anau on Wednesday. This is the third or last day of the tramp.

At the same time, I did the first day of the tramp, to Luxmore Hut, and ultimately, to Luxmore Summit, and back. I took the Kepler water taxi across the lake to save 5km and then started up the unrelenting climb to the hut. I have never seen such a trail. Never very steep, but always up, even the bridges. It was the standard, groomed DOC Great Walk track, gutters on both sides, wide enough to walk two-abreast, stair-cased in the steep or washed-out areas, then board-walked across the more sensitive parts of the tussock. I arrived at the hut a mere 4 hours after departure, just in time to see the heli landing, and 30 minutes less than the “standard” DOC posts at every track. (These standards are set by Hamish MacHaste, NZ's 1000 meter record holder).

After check-in and a quick lunch at the hut, I decided to continue on to the Luxmore summit. It was a fine if blustery day, but clouds and drizzle were predicted for the afternoon and next day. So, after lightening my pack a bit at the hut, I proceeded on the next mile or two, another 400 meters up, to the summit. The last bit was rocky outcrop, but even there was a discernible DOC path right to the top. The crux of the route was simply not getting blown off. I lingered, took a number of pix, and reflected with satisfaction on the 4,000 feet I had climbed between 9AM and 3 PM. I don't think I have covered that much altitude in a day since the 1980s. There was energy left, so, after a brief rest at the hut, I walked out to the Luxmore Cave, a nascent, unimproved (no trail, no lighting, no signage) cave, a hundred meters long, on Mt. Luxmore.

The evening featured pleasant conversation with a Munich couple whose travels the last several months closely tracked our own. They were in Agra and Pushkar when we were, also in Bangkok, also on the Abel Tasman, etc.

I got up early the next morning, hiked down quickly, caught the 9:30 water taxi back to Te Anau, and met Vicki at the library.

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