Gillespie & Rabbit Pass Trek

Gillespie & Rabbit Pass Trek

Trip Highlights

  • Challenge yourself on what is regarded as NZ's hardest guided trek
  • Experience real kiwi-style tramping away from main tourist trails
  • Immerse yourself in the stunning landscape surrounded by glacier covered peaks and waterfalls
  • Enjoy the solitude and simplicity of remote alpine huts and hidden camp sites
  • Spot the endangered Kea, the only alpine parrot on earth
  • Accomplish the legendary Waterfall Face and Rabbit Pass (only in suitable weather conditions)
  • Devour pancakes for your last breakfast to celebrate your week's achievements

Trip Summary

Widely regarded as New Zealand's 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.

Trip Grading

To enjoy your Gillespie and Rabbit Pass Trek, you need to be fit with previous hard trekking and scrambling 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 and experience questionnaire (which we will provide on enquiry) which needs to be approved by the head guide before we can accept your booking. 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 and meals. There are no refunds if you fail to complete the trip. This tour is not suitable for participants under 18 years of age.


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. We can pick you up from your Wanaka accommodation this morning if arranged in advance. Otherwise the meeting location will be advised. After checking through the group's gear, we depart for the township of Makarora. If the rivers are high then use a jet boat to access the start of the track. The Young Valley is a wonderland of dense native forest and high peaks. The trail steepens and climbs steadily to the tree line. Tonight we stay at the new Young hut. Walk: 7 hrs - 650m ascent

Meals:  L,D

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. Walk: 6 hrs - 550m ascent/550m descent

Meals:  B,L,D

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. Here we get resupplied by jet boat so fresh vegetables are back on the menu! From here on sleeping bags are supplied at the campsites so we no longer need to carry sleeping bags and pads. Walk: 5 hrs - 650m descent

Meals:  B,L,D

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. The track alternates between forest and open river flats. Top Forks Hut has a wood burning stove and views that are hard to believe. Walk: 7 hrs - 300m ascent

Meals:  B,L,D

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. Walk: 7 hrs - 500m ascent/500m descent - or a rest day Note : If the weather forecast is good your guide may decide it is of benefit to head over Rabbit Pass early on this day rather than wait for the next. In this case you may spend an extra day at Pickelhaub or Aspiring Discovery Camp, or you may head out of the Aspiring National Park a day early. The last day would then be a day walk from Wanaka.

Meals:  B,L,D

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. Camp is an expedition type setup with a cook tent, table and chairs with smaller four person tents to sleep in. IMPORTANT: If there is bad weather the Rabbit Pass will not be attempted. An alternative hiking route will be utilised and any helicopter or jet boat costs of exit will not be charged. Tours departing in early December or April also have a chance of snow or ice being on the pass and an alternative route might be required. Walk: 9-11 hrs - 900m ascent/650 descent

Meals:  B,L,D

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 with the same comfortable setup as the night before. Walk: 7-8 hrs - 300 ascent/200m descent

Meals:  B,L,D

Sadly, today 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 Mount Aspiring dominating the view. Gradually the track opens out into farm land just before we meet out waiting transport back to civilisation and a hot shower. Walk: 5 hrs - 500m descent

Meals:  B,L

What's Included

  • 7 breakfasts, 8 lunches, 7 dinners
  • Professional qualified guide - 1 guide:2 clients minimum or 1:5 maximum
  • Accommodation in alpine huts, wild campsites or pre-placed camps
  • All camping equipment including sleeping bags
  • Return private transport from Wanaka to the trail head
  • Water and snacks while trekking
  • Access and concession fees paid to the Department of Conservation
  • New Zealand Goods and Services Tax (GST)

What's Not Included

  • International or domestic flights and taxes
  • Arrival and departure transfers
  • Meals not mentioned in the itinerary
  • Your own personal trekking gear including sleeping bag, inflatable mattress, backpack, waterproofs etc. These can be hired.
  • Water bottle (help us save the environment and bring your own drink bottle or hydration system)
  • Travel insurance
  • Visa (if required)
  • Tips


This trek was great on all accounts. Extremely experienced and awesome guide, incredible scenery, suitable challenging terrain. A one of a kind experience.

R. Crocker, Henley Beach, South Australia, 15 Jan 2019

Upcoming Travel Dates



Duration:8 Days
Starting Point:Wanaka
Finishing Point:Wanaka
Grade:Challenging  Click for more information
Trip Code:GRP
Prices From:NZD$3300
Small Group Surcharge (for groups of 2):NZD$650