A six-thirty am wake-up proved to be way more than I needed to finish my morning preparations for the trail. Last night, in Te Anau, I bought the last of the food I needed for the next three days of trekking the 60km Kepler Track, one of New Zealand’s Great Walks in Fiordland National Park. I had basically packed all but the clothing I would wear the night before. Now, I had one and a half hours to eat breakfast and clean up, prior to the reception opening again at Lakefront Backpackers in Te Anau at 8am. I wanted to store a few things in a locker–things definitely not needed on the trek: the one dress, pair of jeans, nice blouse, and make-up I brought just in case I had the occasion to look nice while traveling through NZ. After lingering long over my breakfast tea, eight am came around, I got the locker for my unnecessary things, and headed off, backpack on my back to the Fiordland National Park office.
There I picked up my hut reservation tickets, got the most recent weather reports (rain, damn), and headed off to my pick-up point where a company called Tracknet would pick me up to take me to the Kepler Track trailhead.
The day started off sunny and warm, and I got into a good rhythm almost immediately. For the first three miles, the Kepler follows the shores of Lake Te Anau. The trail is level as it wanders through mostly beech forest. It wasn’t a high level of effort to get a good 3mph pace going and in just over an hour, I was at the Brod Bay campsite, mile 3.2.
After the Brod Bay campsite, the trail begins its ascent towards Mount Luxmore (and Luxmore Hut). As you can see below from my Guthook app elevation profile of the Kepler, it was more than three miles of constant climbing. Many layers of clothing were removed for this ascent.
Luckily, the trail is well-graded and although the ascent is constant, it’s never very steep, despite the 3000 ft of ascent.
Around mile 6.7, you climb out of the forest and reach the tree-line. You are now rewarded with gorgeous views of tussock grasslands, Lake Te Anau, and 50 km/h winds. Those layers of clothing you took off? Yeah, they are coming back on now along with a pair of gloves.
Despite the misty rain and harsh winds, I made quick work of the 1.3 miles left to Luxmore Hut, finishing the 8 miles, in just under four hours arriving at 12:30pm.
Most of the huts along the Great Walks have bunks with mattresses, flush toilets, and propane gas stoves for cooking. In addition, the great rooms are heated with wood stoves which proved really nice for the seven hours of grazing, tea drinking, reading, and writing I suddenly found myself gifted with due to my early arrival at the hut.
Tomorrow is supposed to be windy and wet. The hut warden suggests we wait around tomorrow until 7:30am for weather updates as depending on the predicted winds, he may be suggesting we stay at the hut longer into the morning if the winds are too strong over the passes. Only time will answer this, but I can tell you one thing, tomorrow will be an adventure!