This trip is designed for people who wish to complete the Cascade Saddle Route but are concerned that they may not be experienced enough to tackle the tricky terrain & the logistics of the trip.
Is the weather good enough? Where does the track start? Do I need to carry water? How do I get there? Should we go if it is foggy? What equipment do I need? Instead of guesswork - use a guide! We provide a guide to help you get started and you do the rest. We provide transport from Wanaka and give you valuable logistical support and advice to make sure your trip has the greatest chance of success.
Although it is usually benign, the route can be dangerous under certain conditions. On this trip our guide will give you advice and help you get past the tricky part of the route. Once you are over the saddle and on your way to the Dart Hut, the guide will leave you to continue independently down the Rees or Dart Valley while he/she returns to Wanaka. With a little local knowledge, you can make things easier for yourself!
The NZ Mountain Safety Council has also made this movie which explains the route well - be sure to watch it before heading off:
Hewitt Family, Australia, Cascade Saddle Assisted Trek
The trip begins with a gear check and a scenic drive through the Matukituki Valley (saves you the cost of a bus). A two hour gentle walk brings you to Aspiring Hut where you may spend the night. If the weather permits we prefer to camp out at the tree line which is a big advantage the next day. The trail is exposed and traverses several rocky bluffs. In good weather the track is straightforward, steep and exposed. If the weather is not perfect, you will be especially glad to have an experienced guide along!
Once you are on top (3-5 hours) the trail traverses an alpine valley until it begins its descent into the Dart Valley. If the weather changes, or visibility is poor, this section of the trip can be very difficult for even experienced walkers and hikers. The guide stays with you until you are comfortably down the other side and then returns to Wanaka.
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.
Rather than stay at Aspiring Hut on the first night, we prefer to hike to the tree line and camp out. This makes the next day much easier as it is a long distance to the Dart Hut. We can supply the tents if you don't have your own, and we can arrange for your guide to bring them out, so you don't have to carry them with you for the rest of the hike.
The ascent to the Pylon at the top of the Cascade Saddle is steep and exposed and often people need a little help and advice on the first day of the trip. Our guide escorts you safely over the top. Your guide will stay with you until you feel confident to continue on your own down to the Dart Hut and then he/she will return to Wanaka.
We can also advise on transport to Wanaka and from the end of your hike back to Queenstown.
Camping at tree line eases the route significantly by splitting the climb in two. Hikers should be capable of maintaining a slow but steady pace up a steep hill for extended lengths of time. Pack weight should be kept to a minimum.book now
Cascade Saddle is a well-formed track for the first two hours in the forest. Once it gets above tree line the track steepens with frequent switchbacks. Several sections of rock slab are encountered and footing can be precarious at times. Most of the track is quite safe but a slip in the wrong place can result in an uncontrollable slide on the slippery snow grass with cliffs and bluffs below. Statistically, Cascade Saddle is the most dangerous track in the country with fatalities happening roughly every other year. Hikers should have good balance and be comfortable with heights.book now
camping equipment, food and hut fees
Under 'equipment' on each individual trip web page, we provide detailed information about the equipment required for the trip. Typically this includes a checklist which you can use to "tick off" your gear, a document giving more detailed explanations as well as some of our best "guide tips" and a video to visually explain some of the terminology.
For our climbing and skiing trips, we have 3 categories of equipment:-
Compulsory items - this is equipment you must have with you. You can either purchase or hire depending on the item.
Trip Dependent - these are items that may be needed but will depend on the venue for the trip and prevailing conditions. Most times this cannot be decided ahead of time. Our best advice is that if you already own the items listed in the trip dependent section & you can fit in your pack then bring them along. Things like your own rock shoes and snow goggles are good things to bring - but disposable eating utensils can easily be obtained in Wanaka.
Optional - these are items which you can choose to bring or leave behind. But we think you should at least bring your camera!! Your trip will to some of the most breathtaking locations on the planet!!
Feel free to contact us with any questions you may have about the suitability of equipment to avoid purchasing or carrying unnecessary equipment.