Tezza 5796

Rabbit Pass Alpine Traverse

Trek Summer
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4 days
Trekking experience
Backcountry Experience

If you are not afraid of exposure and have experience hiking steep and difficult trails, the Rabbit Pass Alpine Traverse is without a doubt New Zealand's most challenging guided tramping tour.

The Rabbit Pass Alpine Traverse is a guided tramping tour located in Mount Aspiring National Park. Once you pass the grassy flats of the Wilkin valley there are no more huts or crowds. You will not find a better way to experience the remote and untouched alpine scenery of New Zealand than the Rabbit Pass Alpine Traverse guided tour. Surround yourself in unspoilt forests, alpine meadows, huge waterfalls like Waterfall Flat, and amazing alpine lakes such as Lucious Lake. Private campsites provide a “real New Zealand” backcountry hiking adventure.

The Rabbit Alpine Traverse route requires good fitness, balance, coordination, and a good head for heights. Much of the Rabbit Pass 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.

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Day One

Top Forks Hut, Mt Aspiring National Park, NZ

We meet you at our office in Wanaka 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, towards Rabbit Pass landing at the Top Forks Airstrip. 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 marvellous area up to lake Lucidous for a nice side trip to warm up for the main event.

2 hrs to the hut and 3-4hrs side trip with 500m ascent 500m descent.

Day Two

Waterfall Flat, Rabbit Pass NZ

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 traversing route. A long descent through native herb gardens is a magical end to an exhilarating day. Pickelhaube 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

Day Three

Peak of Pickelhaube Mountain, New Zealand

Waking to the sound of ice cliffs 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 areas. 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

Day Four

It is the last day of the Rabbit Pass Alpine Guided Traverse, 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 farmland just before we meet our waiting transport back to civilization and a hot shower.

5 hrs 500m descent

Rabbit Pass is located in Mount Aspiring National Park, part of the Te Wāhipounamu - South West New Zealand World Heritage Area.

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.

To enjoy your Gillespie/Rabbit Pass trek you need have excellent fitness and some prior specific training may be required.

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 10-12kg pack. Hikers should be able to maintain a slow but steady pace for long periods of time.

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For the majority of the Rabbit Pass route, there is no formed track so the footing can be unstable and hikers need to be good on their feet and be comfortable on rough or slippery ground (you will not encounter deep mud).

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.

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This is a remote backcountry trip, so you need some experience of multi-day trekking, camping and be comfortable in a range of weather conditions.

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.

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Trip Date Available
March Friday 29th - April Monday 1st FULL
April Thursday 11th-Sunday 14th 2 spaces left
Enquire for dates this summer 2024 On Demand


Client Ratio Price
1:1 - 1:4 From NZ$2850

What's included

  • helicopter or jetboat access
  • meals and snacks
  • sleeping bag, liner and other general camping equipment
  • tents and/or hut accommodation
  • national park, landing & guide fees
  • 15% goods and service tax (GST)

Frequently asked questions

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:

Queenstown -Wanaka
Ritchies Connectabus

Yello Taxi Service

Christchurch - Wanaka
InterCity Coachlines

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 guided tours in 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 and 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.

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Rabbit Pass was a goal of mine ever since reading a blog/article about it a few years ago. Aspiring Guides made it simple for me to achieve that goal. We were trekking through the most awe-inspiring landscape I have ever set foot in, drinking fresh g...read more

Ryan, United States, Rabbit Pass Alpine Traverse

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