The stunning Adelaide Cirque at the head of Moraine Creek is one of Fiordland's hidden gems. Lake Adelaide is surrounded by jagged peaks and massive cliffs. The setting is remote and you need to be fit to carry a full pack on the challenging approach and have some experience on untracked terrain.
Your objective may be to just get away from it all, experience sleeping in one of Fiordland's famous rock bivis, swim in crystal clear tarns or mountain lakes, or to build up your photographic portfolio. There is plenty of subject matter as endangered Rock Wrens bop around the rocks, mist swirls around the precipitous crags and colours change as the sun dips below the peaks and the stars emerge.
"Off the beaten track trips appeal to me. Loved the impressive views all the way along. Bivying out. Accessing an area that few people get to see. Being away from crowded tracks. Oh...and the tomato relish :0)))) I'm delighted to have had an enjoyable trip in and out of this hidden gem."
The area can be approached from two directions.
If you are keen to explore a secluded Fiordland valley, packed with impenetrable rain forest and flanked by precipitous cliffs, then the low route from the Hollyford River up Moraine Creek would suit ambitious hikers. The route ascends steeply from the river through pristine bush up to open flats before a final climb up to the top of the remnant moraine wall of past glaciation to look down on Lake Adelaide and the cirque headwall beyond. Sleep under the shelter of bivi rocks, in tents or under the stars.
For those with mountaineering aspirations, the challenging high route that leaves the beautiful but well-trodden Gertrude Valley route at the saddle, traversing over the summit of Barrier Knob and descending to the Adelaide Cirque, will prove extremely satisfying. This varied route requires the use of crampons and ice axe to ascend Barrier Knob and ropes to safely navigate the infamous Giffords Crack leading down from Adelaide Saddle. Lake South America provides a refreshing dip in crystal clear mountain water, well deserved after a long hard day. A short distance further on, through the dense alpine scrub, is the first of the massive bivi rocks, Gills Biv. There is space enough for a large party and (luckily for Fiordland) it can keep you dry in any weather. This luxurious location has been used as a home-away-from-home for trampers and rock climbers since the area was first discovered. Time on the Fiordland tops rewards you with views out to the waters of Milford Sound and the rugged Fiordland coast to the summits of Tutoko, Tititea / Mount Aspiring and Pikirakatahi / Mount Earnslaw.
Clients are to have experience moving through rough terrain (eg tussock, river beds, boulders, scree) and to demonstrate good balance and footwork. Also experience carrying full packs, overnight camping and long hiking days is preferred.
Your guide can meet you at our office in Wanaka or your accommodation in Queenstown. After a gear check we travel the scenic Milford Road to the historic NZAC Homer Hut. The drive is always tinged with excitement as the mountains grow in steepness and scale until the summits are only visible through the sunroof. Have a warm-up hike to Lake Marian or Homer Saddle to look down on the precipitous Cleddau Valley and the ant-like tour buses heading to Milford Sound.
Start early for the hike up Gertrude Valley. It will take most of the morning for the sun to reach the depths of the valley, but by the time you reach Black Lake and the saddle just above, you should be soaking up some sun. It's a steep hike to the summit of Barrier Knob, and crampons and ice axes might be required for the final snow slope. The views down into Adelaide Cirque and Moraine Creek, and out to the coast and to the majestic peaks of Tutuko and Madeline are well worth the effort. The descent to Adelaide Saddle and the infamous Gifford's Crack is challenging but extremely satisfying. Ultimately rewarded by a refreshing swim in Lake South America before arriving at the Gills bivi rock. It is a massive bivi rock with plenty of room for the whole family, a pretty special place to spend the night.
After your previous day's efforts, a slow start is in order to soak up this special location and get back in gear for the return trip. The return trip can be split with a bivi on Adelaide or Gertrude Saddles to watch the sun set over Milford Sound.
It's a good idea to hit Black Lake in the middle of the day for a swim, bearing in mind the water is straight out of the snow slopes of Mt Talbot. Then it's back down Gertrude Valley and onwards back to reality. Finish up in either Wanaka or Queenstown ready for your return journey.
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