The third day of the Milford Track is said to be the most difficult, especially for those who are not used to hiking up and down inclines. Today, we had to hike 14 kms from Mintaro Hut to Dumpling Hut via Mackinnon Pass at 1073 m elevation (approximately 500 m ascent and almost 1000 ms descent). Not too daunting for someone who had successfully climbed Mount Kinabalu in Borneo a month ago… And even less so when the DOC officer at Mintaro Hut talks about the ascent in terms of “zig-zags” at the briefing. It is not uncommon for Mackinnon Pass and other nearby attractions (e.g., Mount Cook lilies, Quintin Mackinnon Memorial, the loo with a view, the Pass Hut, families of weka, and those pesky keas) at the top to be continually covered in clouds, so warm clothes and a windbreaker were a must! The Track’s highest point is actually 1154 m elevation, and the Pass Hut is located only a few minutes’ walk beyond this point.
On the other side of Mackinnon Pass, we got to see some more spectacular waterfalls and had the pleasure of walking through some avalanche/rock fall zones, which is when you know that things get serious. We were lucky enough to not have to take the avalanche detour as conditions were thought to be safe enough, however, we still had to proceed with caution and were warned to not stop in certain areas of the track. The final flat stretch to Dumpling Hut seemed never ending after a long day of hiking and was a bit of a struggle in my non-broken-in boots, but other independent walkers assured me that I wasn’t the only one with sore feet! Unfortunately for us, the famous Sutherland Falls walk was closed due to continuing dangers of rock fall.