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Walking the Great 9 - The Kepler Track

There’s no denying the natural beauty that surrounds the Great Walks of New Zealand, all 9 of them have something unique that none of the others have. In my mind, there is no doubt that the Kepler Track is worthy of the designation “Great Walk”. It's so well set up, signage and accommodation of a totally accepted acceptable standard, you can just concentrate on the experience, while tying to avoid simply dashing to the next objective.

So what is there to know about the Kepler track?

The Kepler covers all sorts of different terrain, flat beech forest, Alpine tussock ridge lines and lakeside views of Lake Te Anau and Lake Manapouri. I enjoyed this one so much purely because every few kilometres the setting completely changes. The tussock ridge tops remind me some what of the Tararua Forest park, except on a much larger even more stunning scale; the Kepler really is a must-do.

On a more precautionary note, we are talking about Fiordland here which probably has one of the most changeable weather patterns of anywhere in New Zealand. The Kepler Track is an exposed walk, there is a considerable length undulating along at 1400 m, partly along ridgetops, and it is regularly majorly breezy up there, so even in the height of summer, it is essential to bring gear/equipment to prepare for the worst. For the majority of winter the ridge tops are lined with snow, increasing the risk of Avalanches between Luxmore and Iris burn hut.

For me I think the best about the Kepler was both the serenity of it yet the convenience of it. Being just out of Te Anau and a circuit rather than a route, the logistics are a lost easier yet, the track leads you into the heart of Fiordland National park. The views over the South fiords and Lake Te Anau are unparalleled, simply mind-blowing whilst surrounded by peaks and mountain ranges all-around. I say this a lot, but of the 6 great walks I have now done, this would have to be my favourite.

After completing my 5th great walk of the Routeburn track, I decided I would go straight on back to Te Anau where I would gather supplies and set off the next day walking the Kepler track. It made sense, although a bit more strenuous, when you think of how much it costs to get here initially, may as well tick off as many walks as possible whilst being in the area.

A stayed at the Te Anau Lakeview holiday park, a stones throw away from both Lake Te Anau and also the Fiordland Doc Visitor centre where you pick up your Great walk tickets which is what you'll need to get before staying in any of the huts.

After a good nights rest, I organised a shuttle to pick me up (Tracknet) and take me to the Lake the Anau control gate, the start and end of the Kepler track. The track from here can be walked in either direction depending on your booking. From here i set off along the flat track through winding beech forest until reaching Brod Bay, a little camp site sitting on the side of Lake Te Anau giving you sublime across the stretch of the lake. Although an amazing spot to rest, it wasn't long before the sand flies found me and forced me to keep moving; the 750m ascent up to Luxmore hut would begin.

The track from here comprises of several switch backs under limestone bluffs and forests of Tree ferns until eventually breaking out of the bush line to panoramic views of both Lake Te Anau and the ranges that lay ahead. Onward from here you'll walk along easy flat track lined with tussock until eventually arriving at Luxmore, a spacious lay out an a saddle beneath Mt Luxmore. The views from the hut are mind-blowing, giving you full view of the South Fiords, I highly advise going for a stroll once reaching here as there are several off-the-track spots to get even better views from.

Luxmore caves are worth a visit, only 10 minutes from the hut which consist of impressive stalactite formations, a head torch is a necessity. If you're lucky enough to receive good weather on this day of your walk, then an evening stroll above the hut is a must as the sunset rolls in, providing you with epic scenery across the ranges.

Unfortunately the next morning, I wasn't given such great conditions as the first day and the drizzling rain and high winds came rolling in. As expected, the temperature dropped quite significantly when I began to sidle round Mt Luxmore. The visibility was non-existent, and so I opted not to climb to the top Mt Luxmore and decided to carry on to Forest Burn shelter. The terrain in this area is very susceptible to avalanches and described as "complex" when the track was graded for it's Avalanche risk. Between Luxmore and Iris Burn Hut, as well as the forest burn shelter there is also the Hanging valley shelter, providing some comfort for the a