Venture along Gertrude Saddle in Milford Sound

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Photography by: Wanderstories Space

The Gertrude Saddle is located in Fiordland National Park in New Zealand’s South Island. If you are a beginner or intermediate looking for a chill and adventurous trail, this is perfect for you! In terms of the scenic landscapes, it was an exceedingly unique experience for me! 

Upon attempting the adventurous journey ahead of me, I thoroughly conducted my research on this trail and found that this trail has its extremities and can be considered quite advanced. Although I was slightly shocked by how advanced the route seems, the photos of the trail and the view seemed so out of this world - I knew I needed to go on the hike to see it for myself. 

Despite the comments that tried to scare me away from going on this hike, I was determined to test it out for myself. Overall, the reviews didn’t seem too convincing due to the initial difficulties but I was so glad I followed my heart and completed the hike! 


Thoughts on the Route 

Length of the Route: 7km (4.3 miles) in length (But can be quite steep) - 6 hours 

Danger? Some parts of the route can get quite scary. It is recommended you go with avid hikers. It can get very steep on rocks and you will find that it can get quite slippery. Although there can be some slip and slide along the route, the overarching question is whether this is considered a dangerous route overall.

I’d say it depends on the level of difficulty you are seeking for during your hike. If you prefer a little challenge but still want to keep it on a safe side - this route is a perfect balance! Along the initial states of the route, there are danger signs as you progress deeper into the route. This can give you a taster of what to possibly expect and whether you believe you are the right fit for it. If the initial danger signs scare you off, just rethink again and make your decision swiftly! 

One tip would be to be careful of the rocks. There were some slips and slides based on my personal experience when climbing down (especially). There are plenty of grey areas that I did not prepare for. Either way, just keep your full focus on the journey and you should be fine. One thing I was extremely grateful for was my offline map. I managed to download a map beforehand that really helped me navigate. 


Tips for A Successful Hike 

Make sure to be well-prepped for your hike. A successful hike is only possible if you prep well. Make sure to bring sufficient food, water, clothing, and other essentials! 

Plus, if you are looking for good shoes, you should consider getting durable hiking shoes - you’ll be walking on rocks without any grip and it can get quite slippery! So make sure to bring the right footwear as it is immensely important! 


Conditions to Keep in Mind 

Based on the reviews online and physical signs in the initial stages of the hike only takes into account the typical conditions on a clear day. This is clear of any disruptions along the way such as a seasonal shift in weather, rain, or even snow. 


Hiking Journey 

The Gertrude Saddle hike starts at the carpark east of Homer Tunnel. The route begins on a gentle uphill walk through an open space. The saddle itself remains hidden from the initial beginning view, and only begins to be noticeable later in the hike. If anyone is interested in a short uphill hike (relatively easy), this route might be perfect for you as a start. If you want to immerse yourself in the luscious nature of meadows and open spaces, this is a good walk! 

Once the smooth-sailing and relatively easy walking stops, the inclination starts increasing. Although the uphill nature of this part of the walk starts getting tougher, there is a waterfall to help ease your experience. This can provide a distraction from the tough uphill climb. 

As you continue walking up the route (with rock slabs and a rich and luscious view), you can begin to see different landscapes with expansive views. Higher up, you can begin to see the peaks and glaciers of the Darran Mountains. 

 If you have some extra time to spare, it is also worth exploring the sites above Gertrude Saddle. Despite the fact that the whole hiking trail might be relatively short for most, there is a special site above Gertrude Saddle that most people tend to miss out on. If you look over to the North of the saddle, you will be able to see the landscape that connects the ridgeline to Barrier Knob - which is considered to be quite a pleasing view. On the other hand, if you look in the South direction, you can be invited to explore views that you have yet to notice previously among the meadows and alpine tarns. 

Once you feel like you’ve digested the beauty this place offers, feel free to return to the carpark to call it a day! 


Final Thoughts 

My venture along Gertrude Saddle was definitely a pleasing journey. With its attractive view and rather straightforward hike, I was given the opportunity to soak in some of the finest landscapes in New Zealand (or even globally). 

Although the hike was slightly easier than expected, and it should be a no brainer for advanced hikers, I enjoyed the calm and serene nature of the hike. Compared to other more difficult routes, this route proved to be enjoyable despite the rather short nature of the whole route. 

I was transported to a different, dreamy world, when I visited the top of the saddle. Even more surprised by the views offered by the North and South points. It was almost as if I couldn’t get enough of the landscapes and immediately wanted more. As I climbed higher from the initial point, I was offered progressively more expansive views. Higher up the route - typically marked with open rock slabs and well-marked signs, there were plenty of exciting scenes that I was glad to have been able to witness, such as the cascading waterfalls and plenty others which I thoroughly enjoyed. 

Overall, the hike was enjoyable to many extents and there is really no better way to enjoy your day than taking time off to hike. 


Q&A 

  • Are hiking permits required if I want to take a day hike in this saddle? 

  • Hiking permits are not needed to hike this trail! With its rather straightforward and open nature, this hiking area is accessible to anyone of any levels. 

    Although hiking permits are not necessary, you may need to seek local information as it might vary in the long-run. It is highly recommended to contact the DOC (Department of Conservation office in Te Anau) to seek help. 


  • There are a few comments thrown in regarding the difficulty of this trail. Is it recommended for beginners? 

  • This trail is considered highly straightforward and does not incur much difficulty. Overall, it is relatively simple and there are many signposts throughout your journey to actively guide you in navigating the trail. 

    Not to worry, although some parts of the route can get quite scary. It is recommended you go with avid hikers. It can get very steep on rocks and you will find that it can get quite slippery. Although there can be some slip and slide along the route, the overarching question is whether this is considered a dangerous route overall.


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