The Gertrude Saddle and Lake Marian walks – Outtheresouthernadventures

The Gertrude Saddle and Lake Marian walks

The Gertrude saddle and lake Marian walks. 

Of late, I have been looking at walks I'd like to do, whether just a day trip, overnighter or a few days away. Too be fair once you start looking there are lots of places I'm keen to go to. I'm kinda lucky at the moment in that my work (or lack of it) gives me a bit of freedom to pick the best of the weather windows to say 'I'm going to do this walk tomorrow or I'm going to walk into this hut, stay the night, walk to this hut the next day then walk out' And a pretty understanding wife that lets me go.

My business also means as a guide, I can take lots of photos and video etc and post them giving my business some great shots that might generate some interest in someone wanting to do that trip. (hopefully)

So a couple of those walks I've looked at for some time was the Gertrude saddle walk and also the Lake Marian walk. Once again the weather was going to be perfect, a huge high over the lower south Island so I said to Mrs H, I think tomorrow I might drive up to the Gertrude valley then walk up to the saddle. If I have time I also might walk up to lake Marian and camp the night.

I live in Cromwell, central Otago so I  organised all my gear the night before, set my alarm for 5am wake up and off to bed. At 350am I woke up and thought 'I'm awake now, might as well just get up and go'. So being an hour earlier off I went. It's about 45min from Cromwell to Queenstown, then about 1hr45min to Te Anau, then about 1hr to the car park at the Gertrude valley.

The start of the Gertrude saddle walk at the car park. The track heads up the valley then around to the left. 

I arrived at the car park about 7.40am, got my gear on and headed off up the track. There was already about 10 other vehicles in the car park. My boots for this walk were my Salewa Ravens, They are a great alpine boot that give excellent grip in that type of terrain. I was also wearing my new Cactus (instigators) gaiters which in my opinion are just awesome, simple to use and really bombproof. My usual Highlanders shorts, a long sleeve, light weight shirt and my wide-brimmed hunting hat. All my other gear, food and water was in my Salewa 45L Apex Guide pack. Which is a brilliant pack, just ideal as a day pack, at only 900grams it is light weight and really does the job.

The Salewa 45L Apex guide. A fantastic lightweight tough pack. I'd highly recommend. 

The track itself does go through a small stream  in a few places and was mid calf deep however the Gortex lined Salewa Ravens and in combination with the Cactus gaiters meant I could get across without getting wet feet. A real bonus as everyone else was having to stop to remove their shoes or boots. The track isn't too hard to follow and eventually you get to the point where the track goes from the valley and starts heading up the steep side towards where the saddle is.

The Salewa Raverns (boots) and the Cactus gaiters, in my opinion two excellent bits of gear. 


In all fairness as the track heads up it is stepped, rocky and gravel, it is well worn and well marked. From the valley floor you look at a stream and walk up to the left of it for about 150m (or so) then you cross the stream and continue up on the right of the stream. Again the track is well marked and easy to follow.

Nearly at the head of the valley, you can see the creek about center left, you walk up the left side then cross to the right, up around into the left side of the valley. 

The first little saddle you come to reveals a small mountain tarn the track then goes steeply up a rocky face with wire rope to help assist in climbing this part. It is very steep and would be dangerous if this area was wet as it would be slippery. Once above that you sidle across a little basin and the last push up over that opposite face and you are on the Gertrude saddle.

The steep section with wire rope to aid in going up or down. It is pretty steep. 

 The views are spectacular looking down the Gulliver river and all the way out to Milford sound. There is also another couple of small mountain tarns and plenty of places to camp up there if you so desired. I had morning tea at the saddle, took plenty of photos and it took me 1hr 37min to get from the car park to the saddle and I wasn't really pushing it, just cruised and only really stopped to take a the odd photo. So I didn't find it too difficult.  

The view from the Gertrude saddle looking down the Gulliver valley towards Milford sound. 

It was a near perfect day, not a breath of wind or cloud to be seen and I had meet a American couple that convinced me to walk up the opposite ridgeline to the top to Barrier Knob. I wasn't going to do this but thank goodness I did. It is steep in places but not that dangerous, yes you still need to be careful but having good footwear made all the difference. The Salewa Ravens are just such a good boot in that type of environment.

The view from Barrier Knob looking towards Milford sound. A perfect day. 

I had looked at the map and had thought about walking up to the top of Barrier Knob to be able to look over to Lake Adelaide so getting to the top and the view was amazing. With perfect conditions and views I was so pleased I had gone up to the top. Just stunning. I took some of the best photos and getting the bird's eye view down onto the lake was so worth the walk.

Looking down onto lake Adelaide, just an amazing day. 

We had a good half hour on the top then proceeded to make our way back down the ridgeline to the Gertrude saddle then I continued down and eventually getting back to the car park about 230pm for lunch and a cold beer. I've done a lot of awesome walks but this would be at the top of the pile. For anyone thinking of doing this walk, pick you day. Ideally you need good weather, dry conditions and it would be best with no cloud. If conditions were wet or icy I'd stay well away from this walk, it would be very dangerous unless you had good climbing gear, skills and crampons.

Heading back down the ridgeline to the Gertrude saddle below from Barrier knob. Milford sound in the distance. Then back to the truck. 

By now it was about 3pm and I thought I'd head back down the valley to the Hollyford road to the car park that goes up to lake Marian and see how I felt. So once again I chucked my gear on and decided to see how I'd go walking up the track to the lake. It was a stunning afternoon, the DOC sign said about 1.5hrs to the lake so off I went.

Again the track wasn't too hard, well marked and it took me just on 1hr to get to the Lake. I certainly sweated a lot getting up there but in my opinion it was worth every drop. A perfect afternoon with a flat calm lake, beautiful reflections and well and truly worth the walk. I took a few photos, chatted to a few people then headed off back down to the truck.

Lake Marian, well worth the walk. Pretty awesome country. 

I got back to the truck about 530pm, changed into some dry cloths and then headed back to Te Anau for dinner. I then drove home getting back to Cromwell about 11pm. A pretty massive day. but well worth it. So two of my walks ticked off the list. Would I recommend them to others. Very much so, probably two of the best walks you could do. Just spectacular. All up for the day doing about 19km.

If you're considering doing any of these walks and you are interested in a driver to pick you up from your accommodation, drive you there and  a walking companion then get in touch. Both walks are just spectacular.