Mount Madeline is a varied and satisfying climb in the Darran mountains of Fiordland and based from Turner’s Bivi. The walk in or out provides the full experieince from sea level at Milford Sound and the Tutoko valley.
Allow 8 – 10 hours for the approach to Turners Bivi and Mount Madeline and a bit shorter on the way out. The Tutoko River track starts by the historic suspension bridge on the Milford Road a few km from Milford Sound.The track is mostly well marked with occasional tree fall and boggy areas to negotiate. 2 hours to the Tutoko River. From the first stream crossing, the track continues through bush and open flats to within 1 km of the start of the Leader Creek route but it is also possible to follow the river.
From the outlet of Leader Creek, continue along the east bank of the river to the second unnamed dry creek bed marked with a large cairn (Limerick creek).In 2023 this was just before the river braid came up to the bush edge.
The dry creek bed can be slippery in places but otherwise provides good travel.
Cross Leader Creek about 50m below the falls. Gain a well marked track on the downstream side of a small side stream, crossing it immediately. The track climbs 100m around the fall to the creek bed above.
100m further upstream there is a 4 person bivi rock which provides some shelter. Follow the true left of the stream. Deep pools may be bypassed by short forays into the adjacent scrub and later bush.When past the last of the bush a dry stream bed coming in on the true left is followed a short distance before breaking out through the last of the scrub to the rubbly fan below the upper waterfall.Climb a gulley between the waterfall and smooth rock fan.
The start of the route through the bluffs starts up a rightwards slanting scrubby rake a 100m or so above the top of the waterfall. Where the rake levels off, a short rock step is climbed to a second rake/ledge. In 2023 a dubious and aged prusik handline was in place.From the right of the ledge, a second rock step (possibly wet) is climbed with the assistance of another dubious handline.There is a single ring bolt above. In descent both rock steps can be abseiled in a single 25m pitch.
The route continues upwards through the scrub and into more open tussock slopes. On reaching a big flat tussock bench under a steeper rock wall, the route climbs up and left and round the corner. A single bolt can be used for protection.The route climbs some steep gullies that are mostly clean and good rock. Ring bolts allow these to be abseiled in 30m on descent.
The foot track ascends steeply up and right on the edge of the moraine wall up to a terrace of large boulders where a small rock bivi exists.Turner’s Bivi is 100m further up on a broad terrace. The larger bivi has room for 3 and a few others can be accommodated in other bivis. There are also a few small tent sites and a supply of water.The large bivi provides good shelter in heavy rain through water can make it’s way through the floor.
Mount Madeline Climb
To gain the glacier, head east from the bivi, under a rock plug and up the wide tussock gully. Above follow the moraine rib (flat bivi/tent sites are available here) to a gap in the rock.
Follow rock or snow gully and around the trough on the true left of the glacier to gain the plateau above.
On the climbers right is a subsidary buttress of Mount Syme that offers good cragging with an abseil descent.
Once the west face is no longer passable, the south ridge can be followed from the col. Short rock steps are well protected and possible to abseil on the descent. Care should be given in particular to loose rock on the second rock step.
In descent the second rock step can be accessed from the climbers right onto a ledge system that can be abseiled to the snow. There may be a large bergshrund to negotiate.
Turner’s bivi provides reliable shelter even in heavy rain. Although climbers should be prepared for all conditions in the NZ mountains, in mid to late season mild temperatures allow a lightweight approach. There are multiple stream crossings in the Tutoko valley and Leader Creek so approach shoes will help keep boots dry. A few cams and slings are useful to protect the rock steps and crevasse rescue equipment including ice screw and snow stake are required for crossing the glacier. Do not rely on aged insitu slings and in any doubt replace with your own.
For guided ascents of Mount Madeline, other mountaineering objectives in the Darrans, four day ascents, or other classic peaks of New Zealand, visit wanakamountainguides.co.nz.