Once the grassy flats of the Wilkin valley are left behind there are no more huts or crowds. You will not find a better way to experience the stunning alpine scenery of New Zealand, surrounded by unspoilt forests, alpine meadows, huge waterfalls, alpine lakes. Private campsites provide a “real New Zealand” backcountry hiking adventure.
This route requires good fitness, balance, coordination and a good head for heights. Much of this route is off any prepared track so the terrain is uneven, there are numerous unbridged and unavoidable side streams and rivers to cross, steep rocky hillsides to scramble up and down, and long days.book now Skills required
We meet with transport and guide at 8:30 a.m. and travel 45 minutes to the small village of Makarora. Here we board a helicopter and fly into the heart of Mount Aspiring Park. A leisurely walk along the river flats of the Upper Wilkin valley brings us to the Top Forks Hut. The afternoon is spent exploring this marvelous area.
6-7 hrs 500m ascent 500m descent.
An early start gets us up to Waterfall Flat. It is not hard to imagine where it gets its name with torrents of water pouring of the surrounding cliffs. The improbable scramble up the Waterfall Face leads to Rabbit Pass. We clip you into a fixed hand line for 60 meters to give you confidence on the trickiest part of the route. A long descent through native herb gardens is a magical end to an exhilarating day. Pickelhaub Camp is an expedition type setup with a cook tent, table and chairs with smaller four person tents to sleep in.
9-11 hrs 900m ascent 650 descent
Waking to sound of icefalls crashing off the towering Pickelhaube mountain, we have a leisurely breakfast before heading down the upper East Matukituki Valley. Even with no track the going is easy through this isolated scenic valley though expect many unbridged river crossings that make this route impassable during and immediately after heavy rain. Once we come to the magnificent Bledisloe Gorge the climbing begins again. From open river flats, through ancient forest and up to the alpine. This is a big climb and many find this more challenging physically than the technical crossing of Rabbit Pass the day before. We camp at our incomparable Aspiring Camp with the same comfortable set up as the night before.
7-8 hrs 100m descent 400 ascent
It is the last day of the trek, and we all know what that means, that’s right: pancakes, whipped cream and blueberry jam. The trail down to the valley floor winds through tall beech forest with Mt. Aspiring dominating the view. Excitement comes in the form or two three wire bridges to cross the East Matukituki and Kitchner Stream, especially when the rivers are high. Gradually the track opens out into farm land just before we meet our waiting transport back to civilization and a hot shower.
5 hrs 500m descent
This four day alpine crossing links two of the region's major river valleys. This area is spectacular, surrounded by high glacier covered peaks, waterfalls and lakes. This is home to many other rare and endangered species including the Kea, the World's only alpine parrot.
Our professional guide will ensure your safety as we explore this remote and seldom visited area. The crossing of Rabbit Pass is a challenging alpine crossing requiring good conditions to safely ascend and descend steep and exposed terrain. Prolonged periods of bad weather may prevent the crossing in which case the time is utilised exploring the alpine scenery of the Upper Wilkin area. Overnight gear and a delicious menu is provided at our private camps so all you carry is a light day pack.
This means being used to hiking for 6-8 hours a day on multiple consecutive days, ascending and descending up to 1000 vertical meters in a day whilst carrying a 6-9kg pack. Hikers should be able to maintain a slow but steady pace for long periods of time. You will only be carrying your own gear but your pack will be considerably lighter without sleeping & camping equipment.book now
Recent experience on rough 'off-track' terrain including steep hills, scree and boulders is recommended.
During the crossing of Rabbit Pass there are sections with significant exposure to falling so you must have good balance and not be afraid of heights whilst using small footholds, handholds and ledges to ascend. On two sections of the crossing a rope and harnesses are used for safety. Experience scrambling, rock climbing or abseiling is not required but useful.
Track times and distances in New Zealand can be deceiving and the nature of the terrain means that you seldom get long stretches of fast travel. There are unbridged rivers and streams to cross, steep ascents and descents, loose scree or exposed drops. Do not be deceived into thinking that days with short mileage will be easy, days that we travel less than 10km can be more tiring than days we travel considerably more distance.book now
The closest airport to us is in Queenstown. There are regular shuttles between Wanaka and Queenstown airport (one hour drive). For shuttle and taxi information:
Yello Taxi Service
KT Sightseeing Taxi Service
Christchurch - Wanaka
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.
One thing we hear every trip is "the food was great! I never knew it was possible to eat so well on a climbing / skiing / trekking trip". We put a lot of work into supplying you with wholesome meals with a variety of healthy and tasty ingredients and snacks catering to common preferences.
Where possible, we provide fresh vegetables and real coffee. However, there will always be limitations when cooking in an alpine or wilderness environment. Meals like salads are limited or not possible to provide. Some trips/ courses are not recommended for people with very restrictive or complex dietary requirements. If you do have a restrictive eating regime we ask that you disclose this to us at the time of booking and we may ask you to provide us with an advance copy of what you would typically eat on a wilderness trip.
For highly specialised diets requiring special food purchases - we may ask that you attend our offices on the day before your trip is due to commence. If you are joining a scheduled group that doesn't have food requirements, we may ask you to shop & pay for some of your preferred dietary requirements. You will also be required to carry this food and your guide may ask you to assist in the preparation of any separate meals required for you individually.