Greenstone Track

Queenstown and Lakes District

A great walk

This is a great easy track for some one wanting to get into longer tramping routes. Usually it is hiked in a loop with returning on the Cables Track in the next valley via the McKellar Saddle. The full loop takes 3-4 days with some days getting close to 7 hours of hiking. There are huts along the trail and quite a few of them are serviced, and have quite a few bunks. Always best to get to them early to assure you get a spot. The Greenstone valley is made up of spectacular beech forest and tussock lands with massive mountain peaks high above. The occasional waterfall drops into the beautiful Greenstone river that you will walk beside for most of the hike.


The Greenstone track parking lot is 86 km from Queenstown, along the stunning Glenorchy road, then through Glenorchy and then through Kinloch. This is one of the two areas to start this hike. The other is off of the Routeburn Track at Howden Hut.

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Never enter a falling forest

I arrived at the Greenstone parking lot at around 9 pm, it was pouring rain, so I made the decision to sleep in the truck instead of hike to the hut. The truck was terrible to sleep in, no room at all. I remember waking up a few times because I was really really cold. It wasn't till the next morning that I knew why. When I woke I couldn't see out the windows of the truck, thinking it was my breath that had fogged up the windows I opened the door. My eye's lit up as I gazed out upon a completely white world. The snow was pouring so heavily that my sleeping bag had an inch layer on it just from opening the door. This was when I realized, my adventure was only just about to begin.

The sign read 2.5 to 4.5 hours, I thought since it was snowing it would be more at the 4.5 hour mark to make it to Greenstone Hut. That was before the unexpected happened. As I set out, I snapped a few picks here and there, keeping everything as water proof as I could. When I heard a massive Crack in the tree's behind me. I spun around and watched with a massive crash as this gigantic beech tree fell down onto the track, smashing fences and other tree's as it obliterated everything in it's path. I said out loud 'holy shit', as I thought this was a freak occurrence. My god was I wrong. As I kept walking more and more cracking were coming from the tree's around me, and all up the valley. I started to get that dreading feeling that this was a bad place to be. And alone was not a good option. More and more tree's were falling down around me as I made it to a swing bridge. I stared at the bridge for quite some time, wondering if the snow build up on the bridge would be like the tree's and come crashing down once I was on it. I finally made the choice after another tree fell pretty close to my location. I took that dareful walk over that bridge, above the swollen Greenstone river and the mighty tree's tumbling down it.

Just as I was reaching the end of the bridge I heard this massive crack and turned around thinking I could capture this tree falling with my camera, It dropped fast and hit the bridge I was standing on. I basically turned and ran at that point, away from any tree I could see. Lucky for me the track turned into a snowy clearing with no tree's anywhere near. My heartbeat returned to normal as I set out through the snowy field. But then I looked in dismay as the track led straight over a huge fallen tree back into another forest. I wondered if I should just hang out in the snowy field and wait. But I didn't know when this snow was going to stop. With the sounds of tree's ever cracking and snapping I continued on through what I would call a decimated trail. Tree's everywhere all over the ground, A river in flood to my left and a step mountain to my right. I pressed on, all the while looking up to see if the tree I was beside was going to fall on me.

As the trail winded it's way up the valley, I scrambled over fallen logs and around massive tree's with their roots now above ground, in what you could only describe as a crater filled pathway. The trail was getting steeper on both sides and getting around and through the tree's was becoming ever harder. The rocks were so slippery and a quite a few times I fell, my waterproof pants where completely destroyed. I made it round this huge tree by climbing why up above it. Once on the other side and back on the trail again, I looked up ahead and realized the trail was impassible, a tree had fallen down from the cliffs above and created a blockade of snowy branches. I thought to myself it would be taking quite a risk getting round or though this thing. I needed to stop and have a think about my direct future plans. I took off my bag and pulled out my GPS. Wondered where the hell I was and how far I had to go, I saw the horrible position on the map, I was not even close to half way to Greenstone hut, and the trail ahead was going through a steeper gully. Tired and feeling a pinch of cold set in, I watched in awe as the tree I had just used as an anchor point to climb over the last fallen tree, crashed down right in front of me. That was the moment. The moment I made the tough decision. The devil you know is better than the devil you don't. I started to retrace my steps.

It felt like forever to get back through the mess I had already navigated. I didn't even think twice about the bridge and the swollen river. Just trampled right over that thing. I had one thing on my mind, getting to my truck and getting a nice warm meal. I made it to my truck alright, and after walking though the forest the second time, I realize now how lucky I am to have survived the complete destruction of the forest. Once in the truck my fears had set in. There was no getting out of here. The tree's had fallen on the roads as well. I'll leave the story there, as I spent a heap of my time ready old news papers and waiting for someone with a chainsaw to wonder along.

Never again will I sleep in a truck - Stu