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Mount Aspiring National Park, NZ

- Wild Weekend -

There are some things in life that have to be seen to be believed. Wanaka’s Mount Aspiring National Park is one of those things. Everyone experiences the world differently, but I’m pretty confident you too will immediately lose yourself as you plunge into the throngs of snow-capped mountains, winding river valleys and remote wilderness. Mount Aspiring National Park is paradise for the mountaineer, hiker, and explorer within.

Wild Weekend Suggested Itinerary

Day 1             Drive to Raspberry Creek Car Park in Mount Aspiring National Park (1.5 hours outside Wanaka) and hike via the West Matukituki Track to Mount Aspiring Hut.
Day 2

Hike the Shotover Saddle Route (a steep climb from 500m up to approximately 1600m) or choose from a range of other hikes that take you along alpine routes from Mount Aspiring Hut.

There’s something about nature – it reinvigorates, fascinates, provides refuge and reawakens curiosity. Located in the glorious Southern Alps of New Zealand, Mount Aspiring National Park is the perfect place to stretch your legs and feed your adventurous spirit.

Winding through the valleys, forests and alpine meadows of Mount Aspiring National Park is a large number of short and longer, more demanding hikes and climbing routes. You can find most of these walks at the end of the park’s access roads or linking off other tracks along the way. Our previous experience of this area of New Zealand was hiking the Routeburn Track (extraordinary), so our expectations were set pretty high this time around. To begin our journey, we set off from Raspberry Creek Car Park on a 2 hour hike to Aspiring Hut via West Matukituki Track (approximately 9.3km).

Note: There can be avalanche danger during winter and spring (June-November) on Rob Roy Track, Cascade Saddle Route and West Matukituki Valley at Shovel Flat and above Pearl Flat. Be safe and check before you start your trek.

The Winding Valleys of Matukituki

The walk to Aspiring Hut took us over grassed flats and past a couple of small bluffs with incredible views into the valley. If you keep an eye out on the last bluff you can catch sight of the historic Cascade Hut – a small rustic hut built in 1932. From here you’ll reach Aspiring Hut in about 20 minutes where you have access to hikes such as Pearl Flat Track, French Ridge Track, Liverpool Track and the more advanced Cascade Saddle Track.

Matukituki Valley tracks take you across diverse terrain – from beech forest flats to alpine grasslands, snowfields and farmland. We’d highly recommend researching the tracks before you leave so you don’t accidently choose a body destroying trek on a whim (of course if that’s your skill level, go for it!).

You can find a list of tracks on the New Zealand Government Matukituki Valley Brochure.

Off the Beaten Track: Shotover Saddle

The Shotover Saddle track is 4km return, but don’t let the modest length fool you. To safely navigate this expert route you’ll need high level backcountry skills and experience navigating. Before hiking a steep climb from 500m up to approximately 1600m, this route takes you past the stunning Brides Veil Waterfall. That’s just the beginning. After you’ve put your body to the test climbing the ridge, it feels like Mount Aspiring National Park opens up before you as you gaze at magnificent views of West Matukituki and Rob Roy Valleys. If the steep hike up the ridge doesn’t take your breath away, the scenery sure will.

Getting There

Mount Aspiring National Park lies next to Fiordland National Park and has local transport services running from main access points in Wanaka, Glenorchy, Queenstown and Te Anau. Hiking tracks and short walks in the northwest of the park can also be accessed from Makarora.

Places to Stay

Get some well-deserved shut eye at one of the numerous huts or campsites along the major walks during your adventure. Accommodation within the park is provided by the Department of Conservation and will need to be booked in the summer high season. You can also rest up in the nearby towns of Makarora, Haast and Glenorchy.

Places to Explore Nearby

After our Mount Aspiring adventures we took to Treble Cone and Cardrona snow fields for some backcountry skiing. We were hammered by some pretty unpleasant weather this time around, but the snow is always worth a visit if you have time! Wanaka is close to Treble Cone and if you hang out in town you’re likely to meet a lot of adventurous people – be it mountaineers, backcountry skiers, hikers or just people from the slopes.

What We Packed

A Tough Jacket

We knew we’d be facing some rough terrain, so we packed a Pro-Elite Stratus GORE-TEX® Jacket. The design of this jacket makes it the perfect backcountry bush bashing jacket and we were impressed by how protective the high end material was. As we hiked through thick bramble we felt no abrasion.

Durable Pants with Knee Protection
The knee and seat pad of the Pro-Elite Stratus GORE-TEX® Pants were great for comfort and protection when we were resting on the terrain.

Moisture Wicking Base-Layers
A crucial part of staying warm and comfortable is choosing moisture wicking baselayers.

A Solid and Comfortable Pair of Hiking Boots
We all liked the visual appearance of the Zamberlan Tofane GTX Hiking Boots – they have a very nice leather finish that withstands abrasion from bramble, rock and other terrain.

Light in the Darkness
The Black Diamond Moji Lantern has good lumen strength – perfect for preparing dinner and organising your pack before you go to bed. It would have been great together with the Marmot tent to put in the tent pocket as ambient light.

Lightweight Rain Protection
The Pro-Elite Stormchaser GORE-TEX® Jacket kept us dry even with a fair amount of sleet and snow fall during our off-piste skiing. The lightweight was a bonus, allowing us to move easily without feeling weighed down.

Reliable Ski Pants
The Obermeyer Keystone Pants are good basic ski pants that kept us warm even in -9 degrees skiing the off-piste slopes in Cardrona (known by the locals as ‘Coldrona’).

Around Town Pants
The Fraser Cargo Pants were very comfortable to wear and great for after skiing activities like going to town or resting at the ski hut.

A Tracking Watch
We used the Suunto Ambit 3 Peak Black Watch for our backcountry skiing day. The kilo-calories is an incredibly handy feature to see how much strain you actually put on your body during the day and how much energy in the form of food you need to take in at the end of that day.