Caples-Greenstone Track: More birds galore

January 3, 2021
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The Caples / Greenstone Track loops around theAilsa Mountains, the clearly defined massif west ofLake Wakatipu in this view. Source: Google Maps Terrain View, Map Data ©2017


MODERATELY demanding tramp winds its waythrough the beautiful Caples and Greenstone Valleys, which come together by theshore of Lake Wakatipu and are also joined, in the hills, by the subalpine passof McKellar Saddle, which offers incredible views of the surrounding landscape.

There is plenty of native wildlifeon the track, and when I first did it a few years ago, we were lucky enough tosee falcons, kea, mōhua, and plenty of other birds.

The tracks, which thus form a loop, can be hiked from eitherthe Lake Wakatipu end near Kinloch and Glenorchy, or from The Divide on theroad to Piopiotahi / Milford Sound. The Divide also is one of the end pointsfor the nearby Routeburn Track and many exhausted trampers are picked up there,although some choose to extend their hike and carry on through theCaples/Greenstone for a longer tramp.

With or without this extension onto the Routeburn, theCaples/Greenstone is still a demanding four-day journey.


After spending the night in the Caples Hut we carriedon to the McKellar Hut, tramping around twenty-two kilometres between the hutsthrough beech forests to reach Lake McKellar, near which the hut of the samename stands. Coming off McKellar Saddle, there was a beautiful view of MountChristina just before we went down towards the lake.

We made good time to McKellar Hut and checked in at three p.m.After a good night’s sleep in McKellar Hut, we had a reasonably uneventfuleighteen-kilometre tramp to the Greenstone Hut where we next stopped. Afterthat, it was another twelve-kilometre hike through the rest of the valleybefore we crossed the Caples River on a swing bridge and re-joined the CaplesTrack. From there it was another thirty minutes back to the carpark where wehad started.

I visited the Caples/Greenstone again more recently, in 2020.There is now only one hut available for public use on the Caples Track, a largeMid Caples Hut that was erected in 2014, and is only two hours in. The UpperCaples hut is a club hut and is no longer available for public use. When Ivisited, the new Mid-Caples Hut was so overcrowded that I went back and drovedown to Lake Hauroko instead!

Caples Valley (top); Mount Christina from theMcKellar Saddle (bottom)


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