Seven in Seven: Running New Zealand’s Great Walks

New Zealand’s Great Walks have long inspired hikers and runners from all over the world to experience their spectacular natural beauty.

One Step Beyond

It was the lure of the great outdoors that hooked kiwi Malcolm Law into running 7 of New Zealand’s Great Walks in 7 days. This epic feat of endurance took Law throughout the most stunning parts of the country – and he documented it all in his book, ‘One Step Beyond’. The extracts below, taken from this book, talk about his experiences on the Routeburn and Milford Tracks.

Routeburn Track

“The first 6.5km of the Routeburn runs through perfect beech forest, always within earshot and often within sight of the burn (river) that gives the track its name. It is well-made and for the most part soft underfoot.

“After a little over an hour we reached Routeburn Flats and started into a steeper climb up the side of this glaci¬ated valley. The bush began to open out a little, affording us exquisite views across the grass flats below to the soaring snow-capped peaks on the far side. Snowmelt water cascaded down from these rocky heights and plummeted hundreds of metres into the bush. It was a picture-postcard view that I had been denied the last time I had run over this track.

“None of my buddies that day had ever been there before and to hear their cries of joy and gasps of delight only added to my own enjoyment.

“From the shelter, the narrow, rocky trail traversed a slope that fell away beneath us for over a thousand metres to the Hollyford Valley. Frequent creek crossings and an abundance of alpine flowers added to the spectacle. The views seemed to go on forever, and looking back to the west we could make out the twinkling waters of Lake McKerrow and, beyond, the Tasman Sea at Martins Bay. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the festive atmosphere that had built during the day showed no sign of relenting. It simply could not have got any better.

“Then all of a sudden there it was – a thundering column of water falling 174 metres from the rock face above – the mighty Earland Falls. The noise was deafening and the spray from its impact with the jumbled rocks at its base soaked us before we were even close…"

Click here for more information on the Routeburn Track.

Milford Track

“It could easily be argued that the Milford Track is the original ‘Great Walk’, for the epithet ‘the finest walk in the world’ was given to it by the London Spectator more than 100 years before we were to make our attempt on it. Every year, thousands of people from all over the world book months in advance to walk its 53.5 km length, over four days. We hoped to do it in just nine hours and make the daily 4 p.m. boat from its far end – the infamous and appropriately named Sandfly Point – to the terminus at Milford Sound.

“We ran through a forest teeming with birdlife. Not far to either side were the vast and almost sheer walls of this deep glacial valley that rose, covered in bush and then giant slabs of rock, to towering, snow-covered summits far above. Early on, we remained in shade, but these peaks were already basking in the early-morning sunshine, standing out against the backdrop of clear blue sky with a precision that made them look as though they’d been engineered by the finest and most creative of craftsmen. The relatively smooth nature of the trail gave us the luxury of being able to raise our eyes from our feet and drink in our surroundings. It felt totally idyllic and it was hard to imagine being in a more benign environment, but every now and again a sign saying ‘Warning – avalanche zone – do not stop until Safe Area sign is reached’ would remind us of the awesome powers of nature that could quickly transform all this tranquil beauty into a potential death trap.

“And as we climbed, the views just kept getting more and more spectacular. Looking back the way we’d come, we could trace the route of the Clinton River through its steep-sided valley all the way back towards Lake Te Anau; looking to our side, we stared with wonder at the headwalls of the same valley that climbed well over a thousand metres from lush bush down below to stark rock and ice far above. Our slow progress was slowed further by the sheer impossibility of not stopping to soak up all this grandeur.

“All around us kea were making their presence known with loud shrieks, treating us to an aerial display that seemed to be their own expression of a joy we were all feeling in that special place. ‘There’s nowhere I’d rather be’ might be a rather clichéd phrase, but right then it was definitely true – for both us and, seemingly, the smart and cheeky parrots with the glorious flash of red under their wings.”

Click here for information on the Milford Track.

Want more?

Read more about the book here.

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