Best high-country tramps in Mt Aspiring Park
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Hello! I'm bringing a group from our Seattle hiking club to New Zealand in Feb-March 2013 and looking for suggestions for 4-5 days of the best high-country tramping in Mt Aspiring park. Will be fit backcountry trampers but not necessarily capable of ice axe and crampon type terrain. Would be open to day trips out of Wanaka or a 4 day tramp with nights in huts or camping. Gillespie Pass? W. Matukituki track up to Cascade Saddle? Rees-Dart or portions thereof? Or day trips to the flanks of Mt Aspiring. Please folks, give me your suggestions!
By the way, is it possible to walk from the end of the Rees-Dart track to the start of the Routeburn? How far is it and would you recommend it
It's about a half hour drive from Muddy Ck on the Rees to the start of the Routeburn. However from Chinamans Bluff on the Dart you could ford the Dart river in Feb/Mar to the Beansburn or ask Dart River Jet Safaris to ferry you across and continue on what is the 5 passes route to the Rockburn and go over Sugarloaf Pass to the Routeburn or walk around Lake Sylvan to the Routeburn. The 5 Passes route is 4-5 days. No huts on that route though.
Aardvark above is onto it. But if you have only 4 or 5 days you'll be spoilt for choice. Can I suggest a straightforward walk up to the Aspiring Hut, thence to French Ridge Hut, and/or Liverpool Biv? This would take up most of your time but give you a good look at the area. There are side trips off this route worth an explore too, for half a day, such as the Rob Roy Stream which has spectacular views. DoC Wanaka can advise on details.
Jet boat travel down the Dart is good fun, saves half a day's plodding, and is reasonably priced.
My wife and I and my daughter did a marvelous hike back in march 2012.
We started at Glenorchy and caught a jet boat up the Dart river. We got dropped off in the middle of nowhere , but only had a short hike to Daleys Flat hut where we stayed the nigh. Next day consisted of easy but long hike to Dart Hut following the Dart River valley all the way. The next two days were spectacular ....following the dart river right up to the snout of the dart glacier and then onto the cascade saddle where we camped the night.
Beware of he keas here....they have learned to tear tents and break in at night looking for food. The warden at dart hut warned us of this, so we took turns at sitting up for an hour on "kea watch" lol. Lucky we did, one persistent kea made 7 attempts during he night to rip our tent!
Next day we headed off to the Pylon with a spectacular view of he west matukituki valley and mt aspiring. From here , a steep descent to aspiring hut and out to raspberry ck carpark the next day.
I would do this walk again in a heartbeat....it was amazing. My wife and I are in our sixties but fit or our age ....we had a ball.
people have drowned crossing the dart, do not attempt after rain, if you.re not totally happy about the river level, find another way round
Yes drowning ... it was referred to by early NZ explorers as the "NZ way to die". Your options are numerous! I assume you haven't been to NZ before but great choice, Asp Park is often drier than the west coast side of the alps or Fiordland regions with Wanaka itself in a rain shadow (which care lure you into thinking its OK in the hills). Wanaka has a huge DOC (info) centre with all sorts of information maps, weather, SAR details etc which should be your first port of call. Walks in NZ are largely dependent on weather.
Some ideas ... (If you can, get a copy of Classic Tramps in NZ! Great pics! and inspirational trip ideas and will look great on the coffee table) Always difficult to gauge someone's abilities, but in NZ, and for that matter probably anywhere, start within capabilites then progress as one builds knowledge on aspects unique to NZ - like weather, rivers, wind, reaction to local beers, SANDFLIES! culture etc etc.
Some suggestions which I'll list against a rough level rating which is personal, only you know your capabilites. The higher the level, more challenging, less people but mother nature doesn't differentiate and the scenery is spekky on any.
Level 1 Great Walks - well signposted, tracks maintained (by NZ stds), bridges, support at huts (warden,gas,even flush loos!). Popular, you have to book and you pay! Your Routeburn is one that time of year.
Level 2 - still have hut wardens, markers and trails (less maintained) can be a bit more indistinguishable eg Rees-Dart, Cascade Saddle, Wilkin-Young, Greenstone-Caples.
Level 1 & 2 are generally supported by transport to and from.
Level 3 - bit more remote ie more camping, navigational skills as tracks are less distinguishable, few bridges, no wardens. eg Five Passes, Steele Creek/Death Valley
Level 4 - basically step before alpine. remote, animal trails, little human sign. Little support, axes/crampons
For short trips out of Wanaka, either hitch or bus out of town to Raspberry Creek carpark then to French Ridge or Liverpool. If longer, go to Aspiring Hut then over Cascade Saddle and out via Rees or Dart (I prefer Rees for Mt Earnslaw) but transport can be limited). Transport out and stay in Glenorchy (great old pub and BEER). Transport from town will take you to start the Routebourne or Greenstone Caples (limited supplies in town available - go to Qtn to restock). O/N option up the Earnslaw Burn. Many will do the routebourne then complete the round trip back to Glenorchy via the Caples or Greenstone (good trout fishing with hunting licence) or end it and bus back via Te Anau from The Divide (more tramping options here). If you want more of a challenge, on a not so travelled track (Level 3), head over Steele pass from the greenstone to the upper caples hut (so not doing the McKellar Saddle) then hop over the range east again (think this is part of death valley, option Emily Pass back into routebourne) dropping back to Glenorchy area (might have to hitch out). Tent needed. Other one you mention is Wilkin Young out of Makarora. Level 2. Limioted supplies from Makarora. Be sure to include the side trip to Lake Crucible on the Young side. If you're chasing a Level 3 option extension, turn R at the Forks Hut up to the rabbit pass and out via the East MAtukituki to hitch back into Wanaka. Some might think this teetering on a 4. Try to include an O/N at Brewster Hut further W from Makarora. Though the hut has changed, still has superb views.
If you are keen to do Cascade Saddle I would recommend walking from the Aspiring side, as its rather treacherous descending down to Aspiring Hut. Weather conditions need to be good, as the snow grass there is extremely slippery in the wet.
Its a huge day from Aspiring Hut to Dart Hut. Ive come across people who have taken 12-14 hours.
A great trip would be to travel to Raspberry Flat from Wanaka, and walk in to Aspiring Hut - but take a 3 hour detour (without heavy packs) on the way to visit the Rob Roy glacier.
Next day either climb up Cascade Saddle to exit to Glenorchy, or do as suggested above and visit French Ridge Hut, etc
A fabulous day trip from Wanaka is Brewster Hut, in Haast Pass area. Takes about 4 hours to climb up, but well worth the effort!
Have a great trip.
Forgot to mention Roys Peak - fabulous day walk just out of Wanaka.
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