Yesterday I got back from another excellent tramp on the Routeburn Track. This time was a bit different from last time mainly because we had a party of ten people — family, friends, and family of friends, with a wide variety of ages and experience levels.
The highlight for me was the second day, Routeburn Falls Hut over the Harris Saddle to Lake McKenzie Hut. Last time it was wet with low visibility but this time the weather was absolutely perfect, a cool but clear and sunny day. Most of us did the side trip to climb up Conical Hill (1500m) for truly outstanding views east to the Routeburn Valley, west across the Hollyford Valley to the Darran Mountains, north to Lake Mckerrow, Martins Bay and the Tasman Sea, and south up the Hollyford River towards Lake Gunn. Later in the tramp we met a couple who've done the Routeburn every year for several years but never had good enough weather to bother going up Conical Hill, so we were very blessed indeed.
Another highlight was a literal "carols (and other hymns) by candlelight" sing-along at Routeburn Falls. That was special!
Taking our big diverse group was a lot of fun; it's always a privilege to introduce people to the joys of tramping in New Zealand. Cooking bacon and eggs for ten for breakfast at the Falls Hut was epic. Everyone did well and I think everyone had a good time. If this trip wasn't enough to get people excited about tramping then I guess nothing will!
We said goodbye to our main group at Lake Howden Hut on the third day; they walked for another hour to exit at Hollyford Road, while my children and I walked south to Mckellar Hut. The next day we crossed the Mckellar Saddle to the Caples Valley, stayed the night at Mid-Caples Hut, and yesterday walked out at the Greenstone road end. Last time we did a similar extension through the Greenstone Valley, which ends at the same place. I think I slightly prefer the Caples route; the forest and river in the upper Caples are delightful and there's a good view from the top of the saddle. There's also a nice swimming hole near the Mid-Caples Hut. Having just me and the kids for a few days on a quiet track made a nice contrast from the responsibility of leading a big group!