Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland National Park NZ

Some of the best views we’ve ever seen from Gertrude Saddle in Fiordland National Park, then even better ones from Barrier Knob (1879m).

Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland

Gertrude Saddle (1410m)

You’d be hard pressed to find better views for only moderate effort than those at Gertrude Saddle.  The fabulous scenery starts on the drive in, and continues right to the saddle, where the best views still await you. I’d seen the pictures but it still knocked my socks off. There is some steep walking on bare rock to be done, but it’s not a long walk, and this accessibility makes it a quite popular. So you won’t get any feeling of isolated splendour unless you start very early, or perhaps very late. But the splendour is extra splendiferous, and makes this walk a must-do for any semi-fit person visiting Fiordland.

Barrier Knob (1879m)

For those wanting even more, the 1km and almost 500m vertical climb to Barrier Knob will make this one of the best day-walks you’ve ever done. The reward from this extra effort will be 360 degree views of the area, in particular the spectacular Lake Adelaide. In mid summer this last bit required climbing up steepish snow slopes, but we came equipped and found the going quite easy. Crossing the snow stopped a lot of the people who had begun to climb above Gertrude Saddle, and hence we had the summit to ourselves for over an hour on this cloudless day in peak holiday season.

Track notes at the end.

Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob: The Scenery

Jump to photos from Gertrude Saddle to Barrier Knob.

To Gertrude Saddle and back

Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland
There are views of big walls and cliffs right from the start.
Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland
Barrier Peak (not Barrier Knob) centre right.
Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland
Starting to climb here. The route goes up on the right, then to the left.
Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland
Looking towards Milford Sound (just visible) from Gertrude Saddle.
Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland
Looking towards Milford Sound (just visible) from Gertrude Saddle.
Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland
Sophia posing with The Twins and The Sentinel behind.
Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland
Looking back at Black Lake. Back to black?
Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland
Black Lake
Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland
The endangered rock wren.
Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland
Black Lake and Mt Talbot. You get a good sense of scale in this shot I think. I don’t often manage that.
Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland
Another shot with a sense of scale – my wife down there bottom centre-left.

 

Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland
Returning from the saddle.
Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland
Returning through the Gertrude Valley.
Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland
A rather tall and thin photo of a pool, cascade, and cliffs.
Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland
A Mt Cook lily, which is in fact the world’s largest buttercup. They are almost luminescent in sunlight.
Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland
I know from a database of tagged kea that this one is called Einstein. They are clever birds.

 

From Gertrude Saddle (1410m) to Barrier Knob (1879m)

Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland

Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland
Thumbs up!
Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland
Me in action at Barrier Knob. (I’m not actually wearing a pith helmet). Milford Sound and Mitre Peak (left) in the distance. A great shot here by Sophia. I didn’t know she was taking it. 
Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland
Lake Adelaide
Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland
The Darran Mountains and Lake Adelaide.
Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland
Sophia taking some of her own pictures. She doesn’t often do that. Various peaks of Mt Gifford behind.
Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland
Sophia emerging from a snow cave.
Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland
Milford Sound and the Darran Mountains.
Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland
My wife Sophia and Lake Adelaide. Such a great scene.
Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland
High Peaks of the Darran Mountains, the highest in Fiordland.
Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland
A shot with our ice axes and crampons.
Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland
An extra wide panorama of the view north and east from Barrier Knob. Milford Sound, The Darran Mountains, and Lake Adelaide.

 

Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland
The view towards Milford Sound from just a little east of Barrier Knob.
Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland
Milford Sound
Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland
Possibly holcoperla angularis, alpine stonefly, judging by some pics I found online.

Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland

Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland
Looking back towards the start.

Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland

Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland
A steep descent from Barrier Knob.
Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland
These were cute.
Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland
One of my better kea shots.

 

Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland
Telephotography made this tarn look a lot close than it was. You don’t visit it on the route, but it’s not far from the saddle.
Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland
Sophia posing with Black Lake in the background.
Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland
A final look at that view before we descended.

Track Notes

Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland
A marked route to Gertrude Saddle, then it’s off track to Barrier Knob. Most people stop at the saddle.

The route up to Gertrude Saddle is a marked track at first, and mostly flat. It then climbs more steeply , passing over sections of bare rock that would be dangerous in the wet, and also if there’s any snow or ice on the route. There are signs warning of the dangers, but I doubt walkers will have any problems in dry weather, and in summer or autumn. More information on the DOC website.

From Gertrude Saddle the climb to Barrier Knob will be over a combination of tussock, rock and possibly snow. It’s a steady climb and there’s no serious exposure, although the rocky sections can be quite steep in places and you wouldn’t want to fall. We used crampons and ice axe for the final quite steep climb to the summit, but I think the crampons were optional (I didn’t use them on the way down, although Sophia did). You’d want basic snowcraft skills at least to attempt this bit. 

The walk starts at 1000m of elevation and so you could fit it into a short day, but you’ll want extra time for admiring the scenery.  

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

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