DUSKY TRACK

TRIP NOTES

DUSKY TRACK

8 Days $3840 ex Queenstown

Accommodation

4 Nights Mountain Hut
3 Nights Hotel Stay

Transportation

Mostly on foot
Transfers included

Included Meals

7 Breakfasts
5 Lunches
4 Dinners

Trip Grade

Category 4
Extreme Expedition Cold

Charity

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Is the Dusky Track the hardest trail in New Zealand? Good question. For some, that’s enough to get them to go and for others, it’s enough to stop them. 

You can’t really go much further south on the South Island of New Zealand than the Dusky Track. It is set deep in Fiordland, further south than its famous neighbour, the Milford Track, the Dusky Track is hardly even known by New Zealanders. So remote you have to either boat or fly into the trailhead.

Legend has it that moose, which were released here 100 years ago for hunting, are still wandering the deep valleys and forests of the Dusky. None have been seen since the 1960s but that doesn’t stop you from fantasising that they are still out there. Who would ever know, the bush is that thick.

Being this remote stirs the emotions. The romance of undertaking the Dusky soon wears off though. That is until you reach the ridgeline. Wow! Horizon after horizon rolls out before you, in all directions. Snow can be seen on distant peaks, waterfalls can be heard crashing somewhere below you, and Fiordland peals open in every glorious direction, a gift for all that effort to get where you are.

“The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”

 

Eleanor Roosevelt

“Distance is pretty deceiving in this sort of country”

Moose Hunting In Young Man’s Country

Read about their adventure on the Dusky Track

Due to its remoteness and the fact that few people pass along the Dusky Track, facilities are basic and small. Our group will only be a maximum of 5 people plus our Guide. We will be like a small family and as all families do, we will be there to help each other, support each other, carry group gear and food and pretty much keep an eye out for each other.

The chances of bumping into anyone else is as remote as the Dusky itself.

And I guess it’s the sheer remoteness of the place that attracts people. Mountainous horizons one after the other, for as far as the eye can see, roll out in all directions. Looking south, there is little between you and Antarctica. 

Cold winds sweep over the landscape. It’s not uncommon to go to bed in one landscape and wake up to a completely new one in the morning, brushed white by an overnight snow flurry.

So, is the Dusky Track the toughest track in New Zealand? I guess the only way to know, is if you go.

The Journey

Make your way to your Queenstown accommodation and rest up before the big trip.

We will transfer you to Te Anau on a scheduled transfer service. In the evening we will meet with our guide for a pre trek briefing and make sure what we have packed is appropriate. Overnight on the lake. (B)

One last chance to check gear this morning before we meet our pilot and aircraft for a 35-minute flight across the mountains to the head of Dusky Sound at ‘Supper Cove”. We will either fly by a *floatplane or helicopter depending on weather conditions and final group size. Both options are spectacular and offer an incredible overview of the vast wilderness of Fiordland’s vast forests, fiords and glaciated mountains. After landing and unloading packs we are left alone. The sense of place, tranquillity and anticipation of the adventure ahead will be profound! Time to contemplate what life would have been like for some of New Zealand’s earliest European settlers who arrived here as sealers. It is also bizarre to think that at this spot about 100 years ago 10 Canadian Moose were liberated in the hope that they would go forth and multiply and establish themselves as a big game animal in Fiordland. The last official sighting of one was in 1952, so keep your eyes peeled! Our route skirts around the head of the sound before heading inland following the original track cut by West Coast miners in 1903. This was part of an ambitious plan to build a road linking the Sound and Lake Manapouri, the track cutters only made it as far as Loch Maree before plans were abandoned. Loch Maree Hut sits on a terrace above the Seaforth River. (B,L,D)

A hearty breakfast is required today for the hardest day of the hike! After crossing the Seaforth River the route climbs steeply on to the aptly named “Pleasant Range”. The change in vegetation is dramatic as we gain over 1000 metres from the valley floor until where the track eventually emerges out on the ridge top above the tree line. The views from here, on a clear day, are superb with wide expansive views over the Dusky Sound and outer islands. Time to enjoy the scenery and rest weary legs before wandering along the tussock covered range to Lake Roe and hut of the same name. We have allowed for a two night stay here, that way we have time for an optional climb tomorrow of nearby peak Tamatea or a “rest day”. (B,L,D)

A whole day to explore the surrounding landscape, rest or climb Mt Tamatea. This involves a steady climb to the crest of the range to the north east of the hut. Tamatea was the name early Maori gave to Dusky Sound and the Peak stands like a sentinel looking out over the fiord and surrounding mountains. (B,L,D)

A relatively long day today but mostly downhill. From the hut, the track makes its way through granite outcrops to Furket pass, then descending through tussock, sub-alpine scrub and eventually into lush rainforest in the Hauroko valley. Keep an ear out for the screeching of New Zealand’s native bush parrot the ‘Kaka”. Along the way, we pass the appropriately named “Halfway hut” before reaching our final destination, Lake Hauroko towards the end of the day. A comfortable hut sits overlooking the hut, at 462metres deep, Hauroko is the deepest lake in New Zealand, and also home to some very big eels that you may meet should you go for a swim! We celebrate the completion of the hike with yet another fine backcountry meal. (B,L,D)

Lake Hauroko marks the end of our journey on foot. After a leisurely breakfast, we rendezvous with the boat (just a stone’s throw from the hut) for the cruise across the lake. Surrounded by dense rainforest on all sides backed by jagged mountains, Hauroko is one of New Zealand’s most beautiful and pristine lakes. An island on the lake is home to an entombed princess believed to have been put there in the 17th century. A local deer hunter discovered her body about 50 years ago. After disembarking from the boat we are transferred back to Te Anau and on to Queenstown where the tour ends. (B,L)

Depart for next destination (B)

Includes

  • Five days guided trek with an experienced guide
  • All accommodation including nights before and after the expedition in Queenstown
  • All breakfast, lunches and dinners as per itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
  • Floatplane or helicopter to Dusky Sound
  • All transfers

Excludes

  • Beverages
  • Personal souvenirs
  • Meals not outlined in the itinerary
  • International Flights

Your Guide and Safety

An excellent guide can make the difference between a trip of a lifetime and just an ordinary trip. Our handpicked professionals come from a range of backgrounds. Each has extensive outdoor and hiking experience and a passion for New Zealand’s wild and beautiful backcountry. The guide will ensure that your trip is truly inspiring, a huge amount of fun, and safe. All guides are trained in Mountain Safety First Aid.

Daniel Murphy Guide New Zealand

This trip is for those who really want to get remote and who really want to push themselves. You have to love a challenge and accept some hardship (mud, cold things like that). You don’t mind staying in mountain cabins and you have to be capable of carrying your own pack (total weight 15-18kg) for 4 days with some food provisions for the group. If you want to see one of New Zealand’s most isolated mountainous regions and do something few ever attempt, the Dusky Track is for you.

Daniel Murphy,
New Zealand Guide.

We also learn quickly that the light grey colour mud is safer to aim for as it’s usually less than ankle depth, not like that dark peaty stuff!

Accommodation

Accommodation is a mixture of delightful hotels and back-country huts.

The hotels in Queenstown and Te Anau are well-appointed and very comfortable. 

In the back-country, we will be utilising New Zealand’s famed huts. These are fairly basic with toilets usually in a separate building and bedrooms are normally in dorm-style. There is a communal kitchen where we will cook up some excellent back-country meals. The huts on the Dusky are very small as few people use them. As such we will bring a few tents just in case we need to sleep outdoors if the huts are occupied.

The Actual Trail

On this terrain, there is little point mentioning kilometers covered because that doesn’t really explain the difficulty of the trail. The actual distance from start to finish is approximately 36 kilometers. 

However, the terrain, which in the lower sections from Supper Cove, up along the Seaforth River to Loch Maree is hard going as it is very boggy. From Loch Maree, up to Lake Roe Hut, the terrain is steep as we gain 1000 meters in elevation. 

Once on the high country, most sections are not too difficult however there are still many boggy sections.

The same can be said when heading down to our final destination, Lake Hauroko. 

This is beautiful pristine country but it is also wet country and as such your feet will get wet. We just have to accept that in these parts. A good pair of boots and good woollen socks will keep our feet happy.

The reward? Well, you will have to go and see for yourself, but we don’t think you will be disappointed.

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