Looking at Lake Te Anau from Mt Luxmore

Kepler Track: Control Gates to Luxmore Hut

It’s a little after 8am and the sun is just starting to send some light over the mountains to the East. I am wearing a borrowed pack and my back is letting me know its not a big fan. I would be lying if I had claimed didn’t started to experience some second thoughts.

From the car park, the walk to Luxmore Hut is just under 14km and the mountain casts an impressive shadow over the South Island town of Te Anau. So I am expecting the track to make me earn my way in the form of some hard work.

The first 5km is easy I have been told as the track follows the lake. So that just leaves the last 8 – 9 km of the trip to cast some doubt in my mind.

Fog on Lake Te Anau
Morning fog limits the lake views on the first part of the hike.

After an hour and a half we arrive at Broad Bay, an I am somewhat surprised at how easy it was to hit the first milestone.

Since we are making good time and its still early so I had planned to sit awhile remove the pack and drink some water. But a relentless swarm of Sand flies saw to it that the stay was uncomfortable and just five minutes later we were underway again.

Broad Bay to Mt Luxmore
The weather is good but not sure the fitness is going to help us reduce the trip time any.

Not long after departing Broad Bay the track starts to climb and ts not much later we need to stop and lose some layers of clothing. The incline is not too dramatic but its consistent and just seems to wear you down over time as the path zig zags up the mountain.

Wall of rock towering above the rock
Still below the clouds a wall of rock towers above the track intimidating passers by.

The intensity of the walk requires regular stops to catch our breath but these are not very satisfying. Your working hard so your hot, but its about 2 degrees so as soon as you stop the sweat on your clothes starts to cool you down immediately. So often you are still out of puff but the temperature keeps forces you to keep walking before you freeze.

Forest sunshine
Finally we are high enough that we are starting to get above the cloud cover.

Beyond the rock cliffs the effort required picks up a touch with the steepness of the track increasing. But we are high enough now that we have cleared the clouds so while it is still very cold the sunshine is shining down on us and things are looking up.

3 1/2 hours after leaving Broad Bay the trees recede and we have cleared the tree line and things are looking good the weather is bright and clear.

Above the clouds
Not a cloud to be seen in the sky above us as its all down below.

The clouds block our view of down below but the mood boost is real from being out in the open. We are above the clouds so we must be really high right?

So its decided to celebrate this major milestone by sitting down and having some lunch. You can keep your fancy à la carte restaurants my sandwich, boiled egg and vegemite cheese shapes have never tasted so good.

Mount Luxmore Summit
The summit of Luxmore covered in snow.

The summit of Mount Luxmore is now clearly visible with the track winding way through Alpine grasslands. Luxmore hut should be a little under an hour further up the path.

Looking down on Luxmore Hut
When it comes to back country huts Luxmore Hut is big with bunks for up to 54 people.

Its the middle of winter but we arrive at Luxmore Hut to find a hub of activity. Hikers are coming and going in a constant stream and I am surprised we have to hunt around to find some empty bunks for the night.

It is still early in the afternoon so after setting up our bunks to sleep we decide to try and reach the summit. My legs are complaining big time, but I left the pack in the hut and my back is relieved to be free.

Mount Luxmore
Track winds higher into the snow.

Heading higher and the snow starts to increase at first its soft and while it makes the walking harder….. there is still progress. But eventually the track is all but frozen over into solid ice which make things dangerous.

We don’t have crampons, and the daylight is running low so we are forced to turn back. Feeling a little bit deflated but getting hurt and needing rescue is not going to be fun either so the summit will have to wait for another day.

Back at the hut we have some soup for dinner before heading to bed. Its been a big day and we happily climb into our sleeping bags at 6:30pm!

Luxmore Hut Sunrise
Sun coming up at Luxmore Hut, one of the benefits of winter is not having to get up early to see the sun come up!

Sleep was somewhat broken as sharing a room with 40 odd people causes a lot of interruptions. So I was surprised to stay in bed until 8am the next morning with the rest of the hut starting to pack up and get ready to continue their journey.

Time constraints meant we had to get back to town and couldn’t continue walking the track. But before leaving we decided to take a short side trip to the nearby Luxmore Cave.

Entrance to Luxmore Cave
Sign at the entrance to Luxmore Cave

When researching the hike I hadn’t really found too much information about the cave. So I had expected a short rock overhang or similar, so I was surprised to find full blown limestone cave with a stream running through it.

Luxmore cave has an amazing collection of formations.

Thankfully we had brought our head torches with us, although a decent torch would have been much better. The cave winds its way under the earth and stalactites and stalagmite decorate most surfaces in the deeper sections.

There was a lot to explore but the tunnel started to tighten and I didn’t fancy walking the trip home in wet clothes. So I decided to quit the cave exploration while I was still ahead.

From the cave was just a case of heading back to the main trail and starting our descent. Heading down is always a lot easier than coming up and passing winded hikers brings back memories of the day prior.

A blister decided to announce its arrival a few kilometres from the finish line. But at that point nothing could dull the excitement of a coming warm shower and a clean set of clothes.