Tramping the Kepler Track in New Zealand is one of those journeys that stays in your mind. Sometimes you just find the perfect environment, weather, location, and luck to have an outdoor experience that can be hard to describe in words. It was magical.
The Kepler Track Hike
The track begins just below beautiful Lake Te Anau and can be hiked in two directions. The first direction follows the mountains first and then into forest, and the second direction, well, does it the other way around! Hiking through the forested area first, it took around 6 hours to reach the campsite for the night.
During those 6 hours you walk along the side of an impressive lake, before heading up into deep mossy forest, occasionally following a river, before opening onto a open area surrounded by mountains with waterfalls cascading down. At camp you sleep with the sound of kiwi birds in the surrounding bushes and water flowing down from the mountains. Waking up to a slightly cloudy start to the day, you pack up camp and start a hard climb.
The beginning of the days hike is tough. Taking 2 hours to ascend through forest up through the clouds and high into the mountains. It is 2 hours non-stop walking upwards, a good test of fitness! The climb is worth it as you ascend onto a mountain ridge and are presented with views across snowy mountain peaks.
With a partly cloudy day and strong winds the clouds ride across the mountain peaks and ridges making a magically hypnotic sight.
A further climb along the ridge takes you up into the snow level. Scrambling through at times knee deep snow, with strong winds and cloud covering you at times adds to the fun.
A break n the clouds gives a view down to a lake that had until now been obscured, its surface glistening in the sun.
Now to the best views of the Kepler Track, the ascent to the mountain peak of Mount Luxmore. To reach the peak you take a side trail from the main one and scramble up sometimes knee deep in snow.
Reaching the top you are engulfed in cloud, unless you are there on a clear day. After a while being lost inside the misty clouds, they break to show blue sky and amazing views in all directions to snowy mountain peaks and lakes.
With the clouds still around they drift between the mountains. Beautiful.
Happy to get clear sky for the views one smiles away!
In the strong wind you head back down through the clouds to reach the main trail again to continue.
Leaving the snow line and clouds behind you reach dryer parts of the mountain range, with Lake Te Anau appearing below and more mountain peaks far in the distance.
Having spent too much time in the mountains, and the light fading fast, there is no time to reach the official campsite by the lake for the night, leading to the decision to freedom camp up by the mountain at the forest edge. Using a bivy bag it is easier to conceal yourself than with a normal tent.
Using a bivy to camp (basically a waterproof sleeping bag cover), you go to sleep with one of the most impressive star scenes ever, as your head is out in the open. With the snowy mountain peaks in the background it is hard to sleep. You don’t want to ever forget this site! Waking at sunrise you lift yourself up in the bivy and wonder if you are still dreaming, as one of the best sunrises ever occurs. With the lake below covered in clouds the sun shines through the mountain peaks behind. The trail has now certainly become a magic land.
Having reached near freezing point during the night, all of the camping gear is covered in frost. Your socks from the night before are almsot as solid as cardboard! With the sun now warming things up, you pack up and head down into the tree-line to hike the 4 hours out to the start of the Kepler Track. But not before one last look at the view.
Walking down through the forest is similar to the start of the walk at the beginning, with moss everywhere. After a few hours you break out of the trees and onto the shore of Lake Te Anau.
Walking a while more you reach the outskirts of the nearby town, and taking a look back at the Kepler Track, you maybe feel like doing it all over again!
A magic land.
Check out my post on hiking the Routeburn Track which is also in the same region.
You can get the Lonely Planet New Zealand (Travel Guide) to help plan your trip more.
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