Climbing has taken a big hold on my life in the past couple months. I freakin’ love climbing. I mean, I’ve always loved climbing, but with having regular-ish climbing partners and getting outdoors a bunch, I REALLY LOVE CLIMBING. There’s a reason why you shouldn’t let climbers into the backcountry, and that’s summarized by days like today. The agenda was fairly straightforward. AJ and I would hike up to Harris Saddle, then out to Lake Mackenzie Hut.
We woke up bright and early at 4:30 in the morning at the Routeburn Falls Hut to check out the stars and watch the sunrise. Breakfast was a quick dehydrated meal by Backcountry Cuisine called Cooked Breakfast. It was a delicious mish mash of hash browns, beef bacon and scrambled eggs. The additional packet of baked beans never cooked through. We made quick work of it and then set on up past Routeburn Falls, leaving before most people had even brushed their teeth.
We ascended into an alpine meadow… and then any fast hiking we’d hoped to do for the day was out the door. There were boulders literally everywhere. And we were going to climb them all in our Chacos (him) and Arc’teryx Bora Boots (me). AJ flailed hopelessly on One Thumb Up (V3) and kicked me backwards into a bush on Rupert’s Boulder. I happily sent Did the Slab Instead (V0). Then we found an even bigger and better rock, which we aptly named Better Than The Last One. Super awesome schist-y highball boulder, but also too tall for either of us to commit to climbing more than five feet off the ground. Next time we’re bringing climbing shoes.
Finally, we slung our packs on and began to trudge back up the trail. Our next stop was Harris Saddle where we’d see if we could do the Conical Hill trail even though it was “closed”. The trail climbed up leaving behind the alpine meadow and winding around Lake Harris. It was insanely beautiful. Mountains, mountains, everywhere. Conical Hill was unfortunately closed with large signage. We took a quick bathroom and snack break, made friends with a lady who was hiking from Oakland (! Such a small world!), and then took off again. The trail traversed across the hillside, giving us views of the valley below and bits and pieces of civilization. Once again, we did shots for every bridge crossed or waterfall spotted.
Thrilled and buzzed, we reached our descent to Lake Mackenzie. The trail crisscrossed the hillside into a lush, green forest and our home for the night. If you’ve still got plenty of time to kill, consider taking the short walk to Split Rock from the Lake Mackenzie Hut. It’s a neat little thing to see, and you can climb all over it.
For our first day on the Routeburn Track, we hiked from the Routeburn Shelter to Routeburn Falls. Our last day of the Routeburn track was spent going from Lake Mackenzie to the Divide Shelter.
For Day 1 on the Routeburn Track, click here.