seeking routeburn and kepler track advice

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seeking routeburn and kepler track advice

Postby sim1oz » Mon 08 Jun, 2015 6:25 pm

It looks like we will finally be able to take some time off work to visit New Zealand next summer/autumn, so I am hoping to squeeze in as much as we can. The Routeburn is listed as 2-4 days, the Kepler as 3-4 days. If I have to squeeze both into 6 days (5 nights), which makes the most sense out of these options:

1) 2 days Routeburn (1 night), overnight in Te Anau (1 night), 4 days Kepler (3 nights)
2) 3 days Routeburn (2 nights), straight to 4 days Kepler (3 nights), with last day Routeburn & first day Kepler on same day (doesn't leave any room for things to go wrong)
3) 3 days Routeburn (2 nights), overnight in Te Anau (1 night), 3 days Kepler (2 nights)

For anyone who has walked both tracks, what would you recommend?

We typically walk 6-10 hours a day and do 7+ day trips so I'm not worried about joining together two notional one-day legs into one day. Also, having this split into 2 trips means our packs will be quite light. Especially with the the luxury of huts, mattresses, gas, etc of NZ :)

We are planning to do all this before meeting up with friends to do the Milford Track after another day's rest in Te Anau. We'll be back again another time to do some things more off the beaten path... Just thought we would get some of the Great Walks done first.

Cheers,
Simone
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Re: seeking routeburn and kepler track advice

Postby whitefang » Mon 08 Jun, 2015 6:45 pm

Hi Simone,

I haven't walked the Routeburn, but did the Kepler back in January. I was walking with a friend who was very new to overnight walking and is a slower pace than me and we completed it easily in three days. We left around noon on day 1 and arrived at Luxmore Hut at around 5pm. Day 2 we had bad weather and had to leave late morning, but even with wind slowing our pace a bit we made it to Iris Burn Hut in the recommended 6 hours. On our final day we decided to skip the last hut we had booked to get back to Te Anau and we managed to finish in 6 hours. If you're used to walking long days I'd say the Kepler should be a breeze.

Having said all that I think option 2 would be good. If you went straight from Routeburn to the Kepler you could get a late start on day 1 and easily make it to Luxmore Hut. However, if it was me I would do the Kepler over 3 days. It is worth spending a bit of time at Iris Burn Hut it is really beautiful and if there's good weather there's a river that's really nice to have a swim in. The walk from Iris Burn back out to the carpark is a bit boring after a while though. It is very easy terrain through beech forest for most of the way and there isn't a great deal of views to see.
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Re: seeking routeburn and kepler track advice

Postby Lizzy » Mon 08 Jun, 2015 6:47 pm

I'd probably choose option 3 if I had limited time.
2 nights on Routeburn staying at Falls Hut and Lake Mackenzie- spectacular spots :)
2 nights on Kepler staying at Luxmore and iris Burn. Last day is a bit long but leave plenty of time for the exposed ridge section on day 2 and the big climb on day 1.
Enjoy
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Re: seeking routeburn and kepler track advice

Postby Kainas » Mon 08 Jun, 2015 6:55 pm

We did both when we went to NZ in Dec. 2008. You can read about them on our blog:
http://www.wcthompson.net/journal/?page_id=550, follow the links and you will see each track broken down into days, and plenty of photos and videos.

My personal opinion was that the Routeburn track was stunning, and that the Kepler was very plain, don't give the Kepler more than 2 nights, if you are fit enough. I would err towards giving more time to the Routeburn, stay at the Lake Howden hut (1.5hrs downhill from it to the Routeburn Divide), and skip Te Anau (which is great, but not really).

The Routeburn track was the first track that we ever did. The first day was gruelling for us, but by the time we hit the hollyford we had found our groove. We also stayed in the less frequented huts (ie Routeburn Flats Hut rather than Routeburn Falls Hut, which you would never do if you weren't unfit like us, but it was a great decision for us - and it was so much more peaceful). However on the 4th day, we left Lake Howden Hut and went straight to our next track (the Hollyford), we even decided to skip the hut that we were supposed to stay at and keep walking to the better hut, making for a 23km day with stupidly heavy packs - I say this only as agreement, that going from the end of the Routeburn onto the Kepler shouldn't be a problem. - The sun doesn't set until 8.30pm in Summer, and it is still light for quite a while afterwards.

The final day of the Routeburn is relatively downhill (the last hour is practically all downhill, we jogged with our 15kg+ packs), the first leg of the Kepler is unrelenting uphill for 3/4 of the trek, but the path is awesome - you could almost take a pram on it. It is also hugely popular, I counted at least 60 people, day walkers etc. However after that it is very easy going.


Other things to note:
Both the Routeburn Flats Hut and the Lake Howden Hut were quiet (one other person, plus a warden), as opposed to the two main huts which house 40 people and are absolutely packed.
The cave at Luxmore hut is fun, worth a stop for the experience of caving in a relatively safe cave (it is tight and scary, but has only one track, and plenty of people are doing it).
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Re: seeking routeburn and kepler track advice

Postby sim1oz » Mon 08 Jun, 2015 7:24 pm

Hey everyone, Thanks for the helpful (and very quick!) feedback. I'm glad to hear that options 2 and 3 are doable (and even an option 4 suggested). Now I'll take it back to my other half to make the final decision. Guess we'd better book soon so we get the dates we want. We walked from Routeburn Shelter to Falls Hut and back a few years ago in winter and it was magnificent. Can't wait to get back there again!!!

@Kainas, great blog!
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Re: seeking routeburn and kepler track advice

Postby LachlanB » Mon 08 Jun, 2015 9:28 pm

I think Kainas is being a bit unfair to the Kepler track, but only if you get good weather. If you have clear weather on the tops past Mt Luxmore, the Kepler track is truly stunning, with great views of part of the South Arm of Lake Te Anau and the surrounding mountains (Kepler and Murchison). But, good weather can be a bit limited in Fiordland... The third day, from Iris Burn Hut to Moturau Hut is a bit of a slog, but arriving at the Beach at Moturau Hut is golden.

So, personally, I'd choose option 2, but depending on where you're coming from I'd do the Kepler Track first. That way you don't have to walk part of the Routeburn from Lake Mackenzie (+ visit Key Summit) and do the big climb up from Brod Bay all in one day. But, this falls though if you're already in Queenstown, as you'd have to make the trip from Queenstown to Te Anau twice.

Like Kainas, I spent a night in Lake Howden Hut. The group I was in was the only one there, except for the warden (although, it was a pretty big group), and thought I was a pretty nice spot. But, considering how pressed you are for time, I think Moturau Hut might work better.
You're making me want to to them both again just by posting about it, they're both really nice walks!
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Re: seeking routeburn and kepler track advice

Postby Kainas » Mon 08 Jun, 2015 9:44 pm

I agree Lachlan, I reread my track notes this evening with very fond memories.

You are right about the Kepler. My dislike of the Kepler stemmed from having just done the Routerburn (pretty) and Hollyford (amazing, isolated, stunning, challenging) back-to-back. We flew into Milford Sound after the Hollyford and we took a cruise... we were so underwhelmed. The Routeburn/Hollyford tracks had spoilt us, with scenery so close, suddenly to be seeing it at such a distant. It was not as pretty.

The Kepler was so crowded. The ridgeline was stunning, the brutal uphill on the first day was empowering, but I hated the constant jostling for space on the track, never alone for a moment. If I had done the Kepler first I think I would have had much fonder memories of it. As time passes I forget the crowds and remember the ridgeline, and the peak, and the cave, and xmas in Motorau hut with a mass of other cultures.
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Re: seeking routeburn and kepler track advice

Postby sim1oz » Mon 08 Jun, 2015 10:30 pm

I was only thinking of logistics in terms of order of the walks. The current order does a bit of a circle and seems to be the least road travel: Fly into Queenstown from Oz, next day head up to Routeburn Shelter to start the Routeburn Track, bus from Divide to Te Anau, do Kepler Track, meet friends in Te Anau then do Milford Track, day of kayaking on Milford Sound then head back to Queenstown, and fly home. If there is a more efficient way of minimising road travel and maximising tramp time, then I am happy to swap the order of the walks :)
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Re: seeking routeburn and kepler track advice

Postby whitefang » Mon 08 Jun, 2015 10:35 pm

The crowds were the real ruining feature for me. I was spoiled a few nights earlier at Mueller Hut with only about 15 others and a really great atmosphere. But the huts on the Kepler were very full and loud. I got quite lucky during the actual walking though only seeing about a dozen other hikers at most each day. It helps to leave the huts early while most people are still sleeping.
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Re: seeking routeburn and kepler track advice

Postby Kainas » Mon 08 Jun, 2015 10:40 pm

We did the same thing for the same reasons. We flew into Christchurch (arrive at midnight) slept with a heap of other backpackers in the terminal before taking an early morning connecting flight to Queenstown. Then we stocked up on food, visited the markets while we waited for the bus to the trackhead.

The Routeburn Shelter (start of the track) is so far away from Te Anau, there really is no other way to do the track that you want to do. Which direction are you doing the Kepler? I assumed you would do the Mt Luxmore hut first, but if you did it the other way, you might find it an easier route (and your big day would be the most boring, you would have more time and energy for the better part of the track).

I am assuming you have looked at transport already, as that can be a bit of an issue. When we did it there was really only one transport provider (tracknet I think).
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Re: seeking routeburn and kepler track advice

Postby sim1oz » Mon 08 Jun, 2015 11:15 pm

I hadn't thought to do the Kepler Track the other way around but it might simplify things a great deal - we could skip the night in Te Anau and have an extra night on the track. Transport-wise I was planning for us to catch an early morning shuttle from Queenstown to the Routeburn Shelter, and then catch the TrackNet bus from The Divide to Te Anau. I've tried to find other alternatives like a private transport, but I haven't had much luck.
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Re: seeking routeburn and kepler track advice

Postby Kainas » Mon 08 Jun, 2015 11:29 pm

We spent two nights in Te Anau (after the Hollyford, before the Kepler). It was nice, there was a great place that cooked a very nice venison. The movie theatre was awesome, it plays one 30minute documentary on repeat. Huge comfy loungechairs and you take a cuppa in with you.

But skippable.
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Re: seeking routeburn and kepler track advice

Postby wayno » Tue 09 Jun, 2015 4:19 am

in summer all the huts get busy and are often full. and there's a plague or day walkers around the flats and howden.
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Re: seeking routeburn and kepler track advice

Postby whynotwalk » Tue 09 Jun, 2015 12:34 pm

PG on high pass - Kepler Track 2.JPG
On the tops, Kepler Track
sim1oz wrote:2) 3 days Routeburn (2 nights), straight to 4 days Kepler (3 nights), with last day Routeburn & first day Kepler on same day (doesn't leave any room for things to go wrong)

A thought Simone: if you did choose Option 2, you might think about doing the Kepler in the reverse (clockwise) direction. By starting at Rainbow Reach (Tracknet can drop you there) you'll have a flat 2 hour walk to Moturau Hut compared with a steep 5-6 hour walk to Luxmore Hut. We did the walk this way in November a few years back. Of course you have a hell of a climb from Iris Burn Hut onto the tops, but we actually found this quite exhilarating. And the tops are spectacular if you get the right weather. We had snow and sleet, but also some clear weather (pic attached).

We also did the Routeburn, and while I rate it slightly above the Kepler, they are both called "Great Walks" for good reason. Enjoy!

cheers

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Re: seeking routeburn and kepler track advice

Postby wayno » Tue 09 Jun, 2015 2:22 pm

i wouldnt advise kepler in a clockwise direction, the day from iris burn to luxmore can be a killer... there would be the better part of a couple of thousand metres of total height gain that day, everyone goes the other way to break up all the climbing into two days. its a steep climb from iris burn,
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Re: seeking routeburn and kepler track advice

Postby roysta » Tue 09 Jun, 2015 4:56 pm

wayno wrote:i wouldnt advise kepler in a clockwise direction, the day from iris burn to luxmore can be a killer... there would be the better part of a couple of thousand metres of total height gain that day, everyone goes the other way to break up all the climbing into two days. its a steep climb from iris burn,


I agree with Wayne on doing the Kepler in reverse.
That would be a monster day from Iris Burn Hut up through the zig zags and across the tops to Luxmore.
Lizzy's advice from earlier is spot on.
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Re: seeking routeburn and kepler track advice

Postby sim1oz » Tue 09 Jun, 2015 9:48 pm

Thanks wayno and Roysta, when I looked at the altitude profile again I realised that must be the reason everyone does Kepler in the counter-clockwise direction. I think we will go with option 3 so that we are not in a rush and can enjoy the walks and perhaps even a swim. The last two days of Kepler look like they can be squeezed into one longish day, and if our friends' plans change I can always see if there is still space in Moturau Hut.

Thank you again, everyone, for your advice!
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Re: seeking routeburn and kepler track advice

Postby LachlanB » Wed 10 Jun, 2015 10:10 am

Well, now that you've decided, I hope you enjoy your walks! They're both spectacular, no matter how they're done.
Be interesting to hear your comparison of the three Fiordland Great Walks after having done all three in a row; I think that would be something pretty special!
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Re: seeking routeburn and kepler track advice

Postby roysta » Wed 10 Jun, 2015 9:10 pm

Some of my memories of the Kepler from 18 November, 2011
Attachments
Across the tops, Kepler Track 18 November 2011.jpg
Across the tops (2), Kepler Track 18 November 2011.jpg
Luxmore Hut, Kepler Track, 18 November 2011.jpg
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Re: seeking routeburn and kepler track advice

Postby LachlanB » Wed 10 Jun, 2015 9:23 pm

Wow, interesting photos. It's amazing how much a difference a month can make. I walked the Kepler at about the same time in December (admittedly, 2012 not 2011), and there was no snow near Luxmore Hut. It was just confined to a small protected area in the lee of Mt Luxmore. Totally different world...
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Re: seeking routeburn and kepler track advice

Postby wayno » Thu 11 Jun, 2015 4:21 am

hope you like snorers, with 50 people in the huts you'll be surrounded by them.... :mrgreen:
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Re: seeking routeburn and kepler track advice

Postby Walk_fat boy_walk » Thu 11 Jun, 2015 2:05 pm

sim1oz wrote:... and if our friends' plans change I can always see if there is still space in Moturau Hut.


A lot of people bypass Moturau and press on to Rainbow Reach so there's likely to be room. If not, there's also the smaller Shallow Bay hut a bit further on (can't remember how far past Moturau... maybe less than an hour?), so you'll get a bed somewhere.
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Re: seeking routeburn and kepler track advice

Postby roysta » Fri 12 Jun, 2015 2:12 pm

A lot of people bypass Moturau and press on to Rainbow Reach so there's likely to be room. If not, there's also the smaller Shallow Bay hut a bit further on (can't remember how far past Moturau... maybe less than an hour?), so you'll get a bed somewhere.



The only problem with Shallow Bay hut is it only has 6 bunks and if it's full, then you have some other decisions to make.
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Re: seeking routeburn and kepler track advice

Postby sim1oz » Sun 14 Jun, 2015 6:38 pm

@whynotwalk - beautiful photos!!!

@wayno, I'm bringing my own snorer with me to inflict on others :D I usually give him a poke when he snores so he rolls onto his side and doesn't snore anymore, but if there are plenty of others I'll sleep through and let him join the chorus. I'll make sure I take earplugs though, just in case the surround sound effect actually does keep me awake.

We slept in the huts on the Overland Track in Tassie (it was snowing) and what really woke me up was the person with sleep apnea who stopped breathing every now and again. For some reason the snoring didn't bother me, it was the funny little gasp and then no breathing. He wasn't even on a bunk near us. Freaky! I'm happy to take snoring over worrying about my hubby not breathing, or maybe I've just become accustomed to it.
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Re: seeking routeburn and kepler track advice

Postby wayno » Sun 14 Jun, 2015 6:44 pm

the weather can torpedo your trip any time of the year, the more time you have the more flexible you can be, i've seen entire huts of people turn back in summer because of the weather, one day only three of us made it across the alpine section.
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Re: seeking routeburn and kepler track advice

Postby sim1oz » Mon 15 Jun, 2015 6:11 pm

Yes, wayno, that's why I'm happy to have gap days between the walks. It gives us a little flexibility. How does it work with hut bookings if the weather stops you progressing? ie. half way through a walk and can't go forward or backward?

Our first snow day on the Overland Track was interesting. We left the hut early and didn't see anyone for hours. At one point I turned to my partner - that would be when it was getting close to a whiteout near the turnoff to Mt Ossa and we couldn't be sure where the track was - and wondered whether one of the park rangers had turned up to the hut we had left and told people to dig in. It wasn't until the visibility improved and we finally met a ranger walking in the opposite direction that I started to feel ok about things.
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Re: seeking routeburn and kepler track advice

Postby wayno » Tue 16 Jun, 2015 4:18 am

DOC get flexible with bookings in bad weather, if you have a booking for a hut they will let you stay in any hut if conditions hold you up. there will be vacancies as a result of the weather anyway if it gets that bad, last time i stayed at mackenzie when i was booked for howden. earland falls was sending a surge of water over the bypass track. if there are large no's of people who are going to miss transport or ned to change their transport the hut wardens have organised DOC to contact the shuttle bus companies and they will change arrangements accordingly.
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Re: seeking routeburn and kepler track advice

Postby sim1oz » Sun 05 Jul, 2015 9:20 pm

Thanks Wayno, that is good to know.

Our friends had trouble making a decision so we have ended up missing out on the Milford Track as it is booked out already. So I have booked the Routeburn which we will link in with Greenstone/Caples circuit, then off to Te Anau for a relax, clean up, restock and then Kepler Track. I am trying to see if we can squeeze in an overnight kayak trip on Doubtful Sound before we head back to Queenstown and the airport. Now that it is all booked - including flights and accommodation - I am really excited.

Thanks, everyone, for the advice.
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Re: seeking routeburn and kepler track advice

Postby whynotwalk » Tue 14 Jul, 2015 4:58 pm

sim1oz wrote:I have booked the Routeburn which we will link in with Greenstone/Caples circuit, then off to Te Anau for a relax, clean up, restock and then Kepler Track. I am trying to see if we can squeeze in an overnight kayak trip on Doubtful Sound.


Good choices Simone! While the Greenstone/Caples isn't officially "Great", we found it quite inspiring when we did it in 2012 (after a false start in 2010). I wrote a series of posts beginning here http://www.naturescribe.com/2012/03/against-flow.html ... For subsequent episodes hit "newer post" at the bottom.

Coincidentally we did an overnighter on Doubtful Sound in 2010 after illness kept us off the Greenstone/Caples. And yes :wink: I wrote up that amazing experience here: http://www.naturescribe.com/2010/09/shaky-isles-part-3-in-praise-of-useless.html

cheers

Peter


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Re: seeking routeburn and kepler track advice

Postby sim1oz » Thu 06 Aug, 2015 7:17 pm

Peter, thanks for the links to your blog. Wonderful photos and writing!!! Now I am even more excited. I originally wanted to do Greenstone/Caples just because it was there right next to Routeburn, but now you have made me want to walk it for itself as well.
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