“An adventurous hike to an awe-inspiring lookout in the Darran Mountains above Milford Sound.
— Almonzo Wilder
In fine weather, the climb to Gertrude Saddle is one of the world's great short hikes. A short but challenging hike and scramble leads to a high alpine pass with awe-inspiring views of Milford Sound and the surrounding peaks. For the adventurous, the high country above the saddle offers outstanding opportunities for further exploration.
Lake — Views — Waterfall — Wildflowers
Weather and avalanche danger need to be taken seriously on Gertrude Saddle. In wet or icy conditions, the approach to the saddle is treacherous. Avalanche risk in the Gertrude Valley often remains high well into summer. In fine weather, the hike requires some route-finding skills, comfort with exposure, and a sense of adventure.
The Gertrude Saddle walk starts at the signed carpark east of the Homer Tunnel on the road to Milford Sound. The route begins with a gentle climb up the Gertrude Valley through open meadows surrounded by sheer rock walls. The saddle itself remains hidden from view around a bend in the upper valley, and the lower portion of the walk provides an easy excursion for anyone interested in exploring the sub-alpine scenery along the Milford Road.
Once the route hits the valley's headwall, the gentle walking stops abruptly and the grade steepens dramatically. The ascent begins along a creek, where waterfalls provide a distraction from the uphill work. Higher up, the route, which is generally well-marked with cairns, crosses open rock slabs with increasingly expansive views. Fixed cables provide assistance with one of the steepest sections that climbs alongside a waterfall at the outlet of beautiful Black Lake. More slabs and talus eventually lead to alpine meadows near the ridgeline at Gertrude Saddle. Views from the saddle are nothing short of incredible, taking in the fiord of Milford Sound and peaks and glaciers of the Darran Mountains. Comfortable rocks and meadows abound where you can soak in some of the world's finest scenery.
With extra time and energy it is well worth exploring above Gertrude Saddle. To the north, the views from the ridgeline leading to Barrier Knob are outstanding. To the south, it is possible to wander for hours among alpine tarns and meadows. Once you've had your fill, retrace your steps down to return to the carpark.