19.12.2010 20 °C
Well Ayden and Gwen had such a good time on the Routeburn Track that we decided to try another great walk as a family. The Kepler Track starts just outside of the town of Te Anau. Quick facts about Mount Luxmore, the mountain that we climbed on the Kepler Track: Luxmore Summit 1472m above sea-level, 5.6km walk to the base of mountain, 8.2km steady incline to Luxmore hut where we were going to sleep over, total hiking distance approximately 40km, 30km with backpacks. The weather for the hike up was sunny and not too hot, but after climbing for 3 and a half hours without any horizontal or down sections, we were glad to reach the hut.
Wake at 7:00am. Have a quick breakfast, finish packing our backpacks, and then drive to the control gates for the Kepler Track. We were very luck for the campground that we were staying at (Te Anau Top 10) allowed us to leave our tent up on its’ spot for the 2 nights that we would be on the Kepler Track. The ‘storage fee’ for this was $5 per day. This was an ideal situation for us for we did not need to pack up our tent before we left for the hike and did not need to set it all up again when we returned from the hike.
The first part of the hike was through a beach forest. There are three types of beach trees in New Zealand, the silver, mountain, and red beach. These beach trees are often covered with moss as too is the forest floor.
Guys out in front; Limestone bluff; Lunch on the mountain
In addition to moss, the forest floor is also littered with ferns. When walking through forests with a fern covered floor it is no wonder that the silver fern is one of New Zealand’s national symbols. It is beautiful and also very abundant. While ascending the mountain we stopped for lunch in a shady spot along the trail and soon there after we noticed the forest had changed. The trees were sparser and the moss did not cover everything. This we took as a sign that the tree line would be reached soon. This gave us all a bit of a boost for we knew that the hut we were staying at for two nights was a 45 minute walk once you leave the tree line. After another hour of hiking and still not reaching the tree line Paul was about to sit down and take a long break. The steep incline was taking its’ toll. At this moment Claire said she could see up ahead where there were no trees. This gave a definite boost of energy as we knew our destination was only about 45 minutes away.
Almost to the hut; Gwen Claire and Ayden
You will notice that once we exit the tree line we are walking on boardwalks for a large section of the remaining hike to the hut. The reason why they have boardwalks up on top of a mountain is to preserve the rather fragile plant life that is in the area as well as to protect the nests/eggs of the elusive kiwi bird.
Part of Lake Te Anau; Having a sitdown; Boardwalk over boggy ground
Words cannot describe the feeling one gets when tramping up the side of a mountain and coming around the bend and seeing the hut where you are going to be staying. It is a very welcoming sight. In a way one gets a feeling of relief for ‘we made it’, and also because you soon will be able to take your pack off, but also there is a sense of excitement for you are getting a glimpse of your temporary home for a couple of nights.
The Murchison Mountains; Luxmore Hut; Luxmore Kitchen and dining; Situation in Huts Kitchen
When we first arrived at the hut we quickly shed our hiking shoes and then head to check out the bunks. We managed to get 4 bunks together on a pallet in a bunkroom that housed only 12 people (The other bunkhouse housed 47 people). This bunkroom had an excellent view of the mountains and Lake Te Anau below.
View From Bunk; Bunks in the hut
Once we had settled in and had a bit of a snack, we grabbed our headlamps and headed over to the Luxmore caves. We did not venture very far into the caves for we did not feel like crawling around on our bellies to view all of the caves.
Luxmore Cave; Luxmore Cave again
Later in the afternoon we also did a guided hike with the hut warden and learned about stoat trapping and its importance to the native New Zealand wildlife. We had debated whether we should try and hike to the summit or not as the weather forecast called for rain the next two days. Being rather tired of hiking we decided to take our chances the next morning.
The morning was overcast, but not raining so we got up early, had breakfast and set out for the summit. The huge bonus of staying in the same hut for two nights was that we all did not have to hike with our backpacks on. We packed one day pack and headed up yet again, to see the top of Mount Luxmore. We wore our rain gear because there was supposed to be periods of heavy rain. Luckily for us the rain only pitter-pattered for a few seconds leaving us barely wet. As we tramped we were able to look out and see various mountain ranges containing arretts, cirques, hanging valleys, U-shaped valleys; is your grade 9 geography coming back to you???? When seeing things like this once again we are reminded just how powerful ice is. For a glacier to be able to carve rock into such amazing forms is a rather staggering idea to contemplate as one hikes. Upon reaching the summit, we were all thrilled that we were standing on a summit that was higher than any found the British Isles, and enjoyed the 360 degree view while munching on a mini crunchie bar.
After exploring the alpine saddle region a little bit more, we headed back to the hut for lunch and a few fast paced, high steaks, games of cards with fellow trampers and then a nice warm dinner. We all ‘hit the hay’ by 9:30pm tired but happy to have enjoyed a day on Mount Luxmore.
On the way to the summit; LuxmoreSummit(14); Clouds descending the mountain; About 100m drop!; LuxmoreSummit(36); Cloud, Snow, Mountains and an Arete.; Flora; Track cut into mountain; Walking above the clouds; Snow Near the Summit; Kids tackle summit first; Luxmore Summit; Summit Done]; Heading back to the hut after being at the summit
When we woke up at 6:30am the hut was already teaming with busy trampers. The weather forecast for the day did not look good: rain, heavy at times, with strong winds. Like all trampers we were not eager to be caught in such weather conditions so ate a quick breakfast while watching rain pelt down, and then packed up our gear. By the time we were all packed and ready to go, the rain had stopped! Yippee! Fortunately for us the rain did not reappear for the rest of the day. We quickly shed our rain gear and made the 4 hour decent to our car waiting at the control gates of the park. Tired but pleased with our tramping accomplishments, we ate a well deserved lunch and then headed back to the caravan park for the best reward ever after 3 days of tramping, no showers, and only cold water for washing ---a nice long hot shower!!! We finished off our day with some take-away fish and chips that we ate at the edge of Lake Te Anau. As we munched on the delicious blue cod, we could look across the lake at the mountain where, the day before, we were on the summit of. Very cool indeed!