of organic yogurt with dark chocolate mixed in. Most of our friends were actually doing the trek in the opposite direction, so they headed off towards the Divide, while we were headed up to Routeborn Falls. The second day of hiking was pretty different from the first. From the lake, the trail climbed steeply up to the top of the ridgeline, well above tree line, and stayed up there. This meant that we were hiking along the top of one side of the Hollyford valley, with continuous ridiculous views of the mountains on the other side. We stopped fairly frequently to take photos, but at some point you just throw up your hands and keep hiking because everything looks so amazing. We arrived at Harris Saddle, the junction between Fiordland National Park (where we had started) and Mt. Aspiring National Park (where the Routeborn finished), a little bit before noon and since we had lots of time we decided to take the side-track up to Conical Hill. There was a little shelter at the Saddle to leave your packs in, which was important because there were numerous keas clustered around the Saddle all of whom would have been happy to eat things from inside the packs or probably just eat the packs themselves (the ranger at Routeborn Falls would warn everyone to take their boots inside at night because keas had been known to eat the rubber webbing off them).
The climb up to Conical Hill was a real doozy. Probably twice as steep as the climb up to Key Summit and a bit longer as well. We were both very tired when we arrived at the top, but the views were spectacular in all directions. You could even see all the way out to ocean (technically Martins Bay, which is an inlet off the Tasmin Sea). The hike back down was almost as bad, due to the steep slope and uncertain footing, but we made it back down in good order. After that exertion it was time for lunch, which we ate on the deck of the Harris Saddle shelter. Similar to our lunch the day before, but with tofu instead of smoked salmon and pumpkin hummus instead of red pepper. As we finished up eating, the guided tour group arrived at the Saddle, and since we did not want to be stuck behind them, we packed-up quickly and hiked onward. The entire second part of the trail wound above and along a series of small pools, cascades, and steams which would eventually turn into Routeborn Falls so we had beautiful water details all the way down to our hut.
The hut was incredibly nice, with a huge wrap-around porch that afforded views out over the nearby mountains and only a few steps below the falls themselves. Our rapid hiking that day meant we were some of the first people to arrive, giving us the pick of the bunks. The bunks in this hut were all arranged in pods of four, with an upper and lower bunk on each side of the pod and a narrow walkway down the middle. We chose two lower bunks in a pod at the end of the bunkhouse, so we were close to the door (for good air circulation) and next to as few other people as possible (good for avoiding snorers). We were a little sad that there was no place where we could sleep next to each other, as we had the night before, but overall we were very happy with our bunk location.
Once sleeping arrangements were sorted out, it was off to see the falls. The falls were really a series of little falls, each one emptying into pools of various depths. There was a steep little trail that led down to the falls area and a hike of about a minute brought you to the deepest pool, which was fed by a 30-foot cascade. Since all the water feeding into these falls was snow melt, the water was seriously cold, but I dove in for a (very brief) swim. Beth waded in and splashed around a little, but was worried about her top not drying well so she didn’t go all the way in like I did. After my swimming escapades, I sat out on a rock in the sun to dry and read my book, while Beth went splashing off downstream to explore other parts of the falls. Eventually we headed back up the hut, where Beth took a nap and I laid out on the porch to continue drying (one drawback to having only a single pair of pants with me meant that I had to be wearing the pants the entire time they were drying, meaning I had to occasionally lie in awkward positions to expose the wet parts to the sun).
We did dinner a little earlier this night, which was a salmon dill risotto with the same accoutrements as the night before, and the local ranger did his presentation around 7:30pm. Most of the hikers were new to us, since they were all coming the opposite way, but the three Kiwi women that Beth had befriended were there, so we chatted a bit more with them. We also talked with a couple from Portland who were nice, but also seemed a little bit odd (not quite sure what it was, just a little odd). Overall, the group of hikers at this hut wasn’t as social as the previous night, so while we did stay up to see the stars come out, we were in bed quickly after.