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