Widely regarded as New Zealand hardest guided trek, this 8 day hiking adventure takes you to some of the most remote and seldom visited trails of the World Heritage listed Mt Aspiring National Park. Your endurance will reward you with breathtaking views of the highest peaks in the region, including Mount Aspiring. Following the main divide of the South Island, the Gillespie/Rabbit Pass trek is the longest guided trek in NZ and well away from the main tourist walking trails. Our route will take you from rainforests to hanging glaciers as you explore an awe-inspiring alpine environment home to glacier covered peaks, waterfalls, the Kea - the only alpine parrot on earth - and one of the greatest collections of alpine plants in the world. The walking is challenging but well balanced to allow time to relax and enjoy your remarkable surroundings. Staying at local mountain huts and our pre-placed campsites, the trip is suitable for experienced hikers with a head for heights, ready to tackle the many stream crossings and boulder scrambles and accept the nature of changeable mountain weather. While the terrain is extremely challenging, you do not need to carry heavy packs, food, camping equipment or tents just your own personal items, a sleeping bag for the first 3 days and your lunch each day.
To enjoy your Gillespie/ Rabbit Pass Trek, you need to be fit with previous hard trekking experience. The track is rugged, steep and exposed and you will wade through many water courses. Rabbit Pass has significant exposure with delicate footing required. This trek is not appropriate for people with a fear of heights. Hikers should be able to maintain a slow but steady pace up hill for an hour between rest stops and each days walking is designed to be 5 - 9 hours long (not including rests). We kindly ask that all clients submit a skills/experience questionnaire (which we will provide on enquiry) which is forwarded to the guides prior to the trip. While on the trip if a guide determines that you are not fit enough to complete the journey, endangering themselves or others, you maybe required to leave the trip at your own cost including the costs of air or ground evacuation, extra accommodation & meals. There are no refunds if you fail to complete the trip.
We can pick you up from your Wanaka accommodation this morning if you arrange it with us in advance. Otherwise the meeting location will be advised to you. After checking through the group's gear, we depart for the township of Makarora. If the rivers are high then Jet Boat access to the start of the track is provided. The Young Valley is a wonderland of dense native forest and high peaks. The trail steepens and climbs steadily to tree line. Tonight we stay at the new Young hut.
20km -- 7 hrs -- 650m ascent.
The track winds its way up the valley sidewall under the awesome east face of Mount Awful. This is really an alpine paradise. The track climbs steeply alongside a rock bluff onto a snow grass spur that after 3 to 4 hours, leads to the pass. The climbing ends at Gillespie Pass and from here there's one of the most impressive views of the NZ Southern Alps with Mt Alba dominating the skyline. After a short downhill we walk through the forest to reach our camp next to Gillespie stream.
6 hrs 550m ascent / 550m descent.
It is all down hill today. The track meanders through the beautiful Siberia Valley and then plunges steeply to the Wilkin River where your mountain hut awaits.
5 hrs 650m descent
Following the Wilkin River the track gradually rises until reaching the Top Forks. This area is one of New Zealand’s treasures with outstanding native bush and hanging glaciers.
7 hrs 300m ascent
We leave our packs behind for a day trip to Lake Castilia. The track is rugged with plenty of stream crossings and boulder scrambling. Some may prefer a shorter day or just a rest day to swim and admire the world class views.
7 hrs 500m ascent 500m descent or a rest day
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. A long descent through native herb gardens is a magical end to an exhilarating day.
IMPORTANT: If there is bad weather the Rabbit Pass will not be attempted. An alternative hiking route will be utilised and any helicopter or jetboat costs of exit will not be charged.
9-11 hrs 900m ascent 650 descent
Waking to sound of icefalls off the towering Mt. Pickelhaub, we have a leisurely breakfast before heading down the East Matukituki Valley. Even with no track the going is easy through this isolated scenic valley. 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 day that has it all. We camp at our incomparable Aspiring Camp.
7-8 hrs 200m descent 300 ascent
IMPORTANT: 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.
It is the last day of the trek, and we all know what that means, that’s right: pancakes, whipped cream and blueberries. The trail down to the valley floor winds through tall beech with Mnt. Aspiring dominating the view. Gradually the track opens out into farm land just before we meet out waiting transport back to civilization and a hot shower.
5 hrs 500m descent
Per Person, Twin Share