Adelaide Cirque Fiordland

Trek Summer
4 days
Trekking experience
Backcountry Experience

The stunning Adelaide Cirque at the head of Moraine Creek is one of Fiordland's hidden gems.

Lake Adelaide is surrounded by jagged peaks and massive cliffs. The setting is remote and you need to be fit to carry a full pack on the challenging approach up and over rugged peaks and have some experience on untracked terrain.

Your objective may be to just get away from it all, experience sleeping in one of Fiordland's famous rock bivis, swim in crystal clear tarns or mountain lakes, or to build up your photographic portfolio. There is plenty of subject matter as endangered Rock Wrens bop around the rocks, mist swirls around the precipitous crags and colours change as the sun dips below the peaks and the stars emerge.

book now from $2950 Skills required

Day One


Your guide can meet you at our office in Wanaka or your accommodation in Queenstown. After a gear check we travel the scenic Milford Road to the Hollyford Valley. The drive is always tinged with excitement as the mountains grow in steepness and scale until the summits are only visible through the sunroof.

The track starts from the lower Hollyford Valley in the midst of ancient West Coast rainforest. The track soon crosses the mighty Hollyford river via and exciting wire bridge before climbing steeply up alongside the lower cascades and waterfalls of Moraine Creek to a Fiordland rock bivi. Already the remote nature of this route is evident as the track in places is poorly formed, may be overgrown by the rampant Fiordland vegetation and requires scrambling on dry creek beds and root steps.

Day Two

Lake South America and Mount Sabre

After a short distance, the track leaves the forest and enters the open swampy Tent Flat with the steep sided glacial valley and peaks reaching up on both sides. Head further up the valley along creek beds and scrub to the site of the old Moraine Creek hut. Continue up the side of the old glacial moraine from which the valley takes it's name. From the top the view opens out down onto Lake Adelaide and across to the cliffs and peaks of the Adelaide Cirque. You may choose to camp before the terraces or carry on further for a night at Gill's rock biv.

Day Three


From Gill's Biv, trek past Lake South America and up to the intimidating Gifford's Crack. The crux of the route involves steep rock scrambling protected by a rope up to Adelaide Saddle. Continue up and over Barrier Knob to camp at Gertrude Saddle to watch the sun set over Milford Sound.

Day Four

The final day, it's back down Gertrude Valley to the Milford road and onwards back to reality. Finish up in either Wanaka or Queenstown ready for your return journey.

NB : Please note that this itinerary is a sample only and the actual itinerary may vary at the discretion of your guide. Weather, conditions and personal ability and needs may make changes necessary or advantageous to the participants.

This satisfying route is the most technically challenging trek we offer.

Leaving the stunning but well-travelled Milford Road route behind, the route climbs steeply out of the Hollyford valley up Moraine Creek to reach Lake Adelaide. Then there is the steep climb up and over Barrier Knob and descending into the Gertrude Valley. In early season, this route requires the use of crampons and ice axe to ascend Barrier Knob. Ropes and harness are required to safely navigate the infamous Giffords Crack leading from the Adelaide Cirque up to Adelaide Saddle. If conditions dictate, a shorter version of this route may be attempted heading from the Gertrude Valley over Barrier Knob to Gill's Biv in the Adelaide Cirque above Lake Adelaide and back.

The route offers many spots to camp and some famous Fiordland rock bivis. Gills Biv is a massive rock bivi with space enough for a large party and (luckily for Fiordland) it can keep you dry in any weather. This luxurious location has been used as a home-away-from-home for trampers and rock climbers since the area was first discovered. Lake South America provides a refreshing dip in crystal clear mountain water, well deserved after a long hard day. From Adelaide Saddle and traversing Barrier Knob rewards you with views out to the waters of Milford Sound and the rugged Fiordland coast to the summits of Tutoko, Tititea / Mount Aspiring and Pikirakatahi / Mount Earnslaw.


Trip Date Available
Inquire about dates for 2020 Best time mid Jan to early April


Client Ratio Price
1:1-2 From NZ$2,950

What's included

  • all meals and energy snacks
  • hut accommodation and any tents/general camping equipment
  • technical equipment - helmet, crampons, ice axe, climbing harness
  • satellite phone/ radio communications
  • national park & guide fees
  • 15% goods and services tax
  • 1 day weather contingency

Frequently asked questions

The maximum group size for all our scheduled Trekking hiking tours is one guide with 4-5 clients. We write this 1:5. Typically our average group size is 3-4 people although all our trips have guaranteed departures for just 2 people.

W also often cater for larger private groups and have operated hiking adventures in the NZ Southern Alps for groups of 10+ people. Please contact us if you would like to organise a spectacular hiking adventure for your group.

All our Treks are physically demanding though our small group size means that you can go at your own pace. The fitter you are, the more you will achieve, and the more you will be able to enjoy the experience. Some experience walking on rough terrain is also the key, the better you are at this, the more efficiently you can travel, and the less energy you will expend.

All Treks will have some degree of up and downhill, but on those that cross alpine passes (such as Gillespie and Rabbit Pass), you can expect steep sections of around 500m vertically up and down. The advantage of these trips is that, due to the stocked camps, your pack weight will be light. On our more remote Treks without serviced huts or campsites you will be carrying food and overnight equipment, so specific training with heavier loads (around 15 Kg) will help.

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