If you have ever wanted to hike on a glacier or learn to walk safely amongst towering columns of an ice fall, then this exciting trip in Te Wahipounamu, in the Southwest New Zealand World Heritage Area, is for you. New Zealand's glaciers are spectacular but very few people ever get to visit the catchments of these vast oceans of snow. Here is your chance to experience a hiking adventure in one of New Zealand's most famous glacial areas which culminates in the magnificent Bonar Glacier. Renowned for its wonderful mixture of remote wilderness, high mountains and beautiful river valleys, the Mount Aspiring National Park is a walker's paradise, where the views are endless and unforgettable. With all the technical gear provided and pre-placed; all you need is a good pair of boots, excellent fitness and a spirit of adventure. The route passes directly below Mount Aspiring with amazing views. Mount Aspiring itself is a majestic peak and the only peak over 3000 metres outside Mount Cook National Park. The hike up the French Ridge track is steep, real steep and a good reminder why this demanding walk requires a high level of fitness. Clutching at roots and pulling yourself up over obstacles will give you a whole new appreciation of New Zealand hiking.
Technical Difficulty – You will encounter steep snow where good balance and foot work are required. Glacier travel, crampon and ice axe skills, and technical rope work will all be required but don’t worry, for those new to the sport or needing a refresher, our guides will start right at the beginning.
Physical Difficulty – You will need to carry a pack (approx. 6 - 9 kg) for long periods of time. There are long ascents and descents and depending on the time of year the snow can be either deep and soft or hard and icy. This will tax your leg strength and a good level of fitness is required. While no previous experience on snow and ice is required, hikers need to be experienced with big days out in the mountains and dealing with extended periods of steep terrain.
We meet at our office in Wanaka where you and your guide will do a gear check and you can ask any last minute questions. It is a beautiful drive up the Matukituki Valley to the trail head. The route begins with 3.5 hours of walking in open river meadows before it sharply turns and ascends the steep ridge. The French Ridge track is steep, real steep. Clutching at roots and pulling yourself up over obstacles will give you a whole new appreciation of New Zealand hiking. Mercifully the steepness quickly subsides once you reach tree line - after couple hours as you get above the trees the track has views of the surrounding peaks and valleys that are iconically New Zealand. This is a very special place.
6-7 hours walk | 1080m ascent
An early start quickly puts on snow and using crampons you continue to follow the ridge. The ground slopes away sharply on each side until after an hour you reach the toe of the Quarterdeck Pass Glacier. Here the snow is broken by crevasses and your guide will careful show you how to safely navigate your way. Depending on the time of year the glacier can be either a smooth ramp leading to the pass or a jumbled icefall that you weave through. Either way, the views of the Bonar Glacier and Mnt. Aspiring that you get when you reach the pass are worth every bit of effort. Return to French Ridge Hut.
6-7 hrs walk | 780m ascent/descent
After leaving French Ridge Hut the track takes us back down towards the valley floor. After down climbing the steep sections it’s magic to be back on flat ground again. We have a few more hours before reaching Aspiring Hut where we usually have lunch. Two hours of walking beside the Matukituki River brings us back to our vehicle and the ride back to base.
6-7 hrs walk | 1080m descent
Per Person, Twin Share