11 days in NZ, looking for suitable summit hikes

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11 days in NZ, looking for suitable summit hikes

Postby rpalmer » Sun 24 Jan, 2016 9:11 pm

Hi all,

My partner and I are spending 11 days in NZ and we are enthusiast hikers with no crampon experience. Looking for some advice in terms of hiking tracks in NZ.

Background:
We made a strong attempt at Mt Anne in Tasmania in bad weather conditions but had to turn back 2/3 of the way along the plateau at the top. Despite the terrible conditions, it was incredibly memorable and enjoyable.

We have since done overnight Main range track (Summer) in the Snowy mountains and overnight Cradle Mtn summit with Scott Kilvert Hut circuit (Summer as well). These were enjoyable but see below Dilemma #1.

We don't have any experience in snow or ice. Have never used any mountaineering gear including crampons, ice axes etc. We'll be keen to get some training on this this coming year.

Dilemma:
#1 Whilst we enjoyed Main Range and Cradle Mtn walks, these were not as enjoyable as Mt Anne, as there was a lesser feel of adventure. I'll attribute this to factors such as the number of ppl we encountered and the civilised nature of the track (especially around Cradle where much of it was on a boardwalk).

We're looking for tracks that are lesser walked. Ideally nothing like Milford (as beautiful as we hear it is). We found information about the track up to Brewster Hut and on to Mt Armstrong which seems very promising and enticing.

#2 Having researched some, we find that many of the walks around Queenstown are in the valley floor or overcoming one or two mountain passes. We would much prefer to find a summit to 'conquer' than walking through the valley floor. Most likely to come back from a trip with a sense of achievement perhaps?

Our general Hiking itinerary so far (open for suggestions/criticisms)

Thursday, 10th March
Arrive Queenstown afternoon, rent car and travel to Wanaka to spend night.
Friday, 11th March
Head to brewster hut glacial lakes for camping overnight. Not sure if soil will be available as we'll have a tunnel tent. Guy ropes will hopefully be enough.s
Saturday, 12th March
Climb mt armstrong and then back down to car by evening. Stay in wanaka overnight
Sunday, 13th March
Rest day
Monday, 14th March
Rest day
Tuesday, 15th March
Start track from Greenstone and on to Routeburn in Reverse
Sunday, 20th March
Arrive back in Queenstown by evening.
Monday, 21st March
Fly out in the morning.

As mentioned before, we understand that Greenstone to Routeburn in reverse is mostly on the valley floor. Whilst we hear amazing things about Routeburn, the popularity of it does deter us slightly.

Brewster Hut, along with Mt Armstrong summit sounds like a great experience and exactly what we're after in terms of difficulty and popularity.

Rees Dart track is another one we looked heavily into. Uncertain about the track conditions however as we'd ideally prefer to do the circuit. Cascade saddle does sound amazing but we're also worried about the popularity of this track as well.

Would anyone be able to offer any advice/suggestions on more suitable tracks/hikes accessible via car from Queenstown?
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Re: 11 days in NZ, looking for suitable summit hikes

Postby wayno » Mon 25 Jan, 2016 2:41 pm

if you dont like a lot of people around, you won't like the routeburn, hundreds of day walkers at either end of the track as well as the dozens of overnighters at each hut. the greenstone huts are usually packed in the warmer months. the brewster glacial lakes are pretty stony around the lakes with a lot of bare rock.
you cant complete the dart river track, its been flooded at the bottom end and closed indefinitely
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Re: 11 days in NZ, looking for suitable summit hikes

Postby rpalmer » Mon 25 Jan, 2016 4:40 pm

wayno wrote:if you dont like a lot of people around, you won't like the routeburn, hundreds of day walkers at either end of the track as well as the dozens of overnighters at each hut. the greenstone huts are usually packed in the warmer months. the brewster glacial lakes are pretty stony around the lakes with a lot of bare rock.
you cant complete the dart river track, its been flooded at the bottom end and closed indefinitely



Thanks wayno, didnt realise how packed tracks like routeburn and greenstone were. I suppose it wouldn't be too different in March, packed as well?

Cheers for the tip about the brewster glacial lakes terrain, we'll prepare for that in the meantime.

I guess Rees dart may be out of our plans then.
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Re: 11 days in NZ, looking for suitable summit hikes

Postby wayno » Mon 25 Jan, 2016 4:52 pm

check the doc booking site for the routeburn.
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Re: 11 days in NZ, looking for suitable summit hikes

Postby canthardlywait » Sat 30 Jan, 2016 11:15 am

Hey, I just did the Routeburn and Caples tracks. The Routeburn was very busy but I imagine by late March it would have quietened down a bit. On the Caples I stayed in the Upper Caples Hut (previously managed by DOC but now run by deerhunters). It's $15 a night and you can grab the key in Queenstown before you leave. I was the only one there and the serenity was amazing! Highly recommend the Caples, it was a beautiful valley.
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Re: 11 days in NZ, looking for suitable summit hikes

Postby rpalmer » Sun 31 Jan, 2016 11:13 pm

Thanks for the info!

When we tried to book a campervan for our trip in March, we found that it was extremely difficult. One of the campervan operators mentioned that this time last year would have been fine to book one for March, but this year seemed especially busy.

With that, we've decided to skip the great walks for this trip and probably try it in a more wintry season for a smaller crowd.

Instead, we've decided to roam around in our campervan and try to find great day or possibly overnight walks in the Southern area of South Island eg. Brewster Hut/Mt Armstrong, Mt Alfred or Gertrude Saddle

If anyone has any suggestions on lesser known but great day walks, would love to give them a go!
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Re: 11 days in NZ, looking for suitable summit hikes

Postby wayno » Mon 01 Feb, 2016 3:23 am

Routeburn gets major avalanche danger in winter.
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Re: 11 days in NZ, looking for suitable summit hikes

Postby paul_gee » Mon 01 Feb, 2016 9:11 am

canthardlywait wrote:Hey, I just did the Routeburn and Caples tracks. The Routeburn was very busy but I imagine by late March it would have quietened down a bit. On the Caples I stayed in the Upper Caples Hut (previously managed by DOC but now run by deerhunters). It's $15 a night and you can grab the key in Queenstown before you leave. I was the only one there and the serenity was amazing! Highly recommend the Caples, it was a beautiful valley.


I adore the Caples River valley too. I tramped the Caples Greenstone in 2009. Stayed in the old Mid Caples Hut on the first night. Shared it with two hunters. A beautiful, peaceful night. Had another short day on the second - it was a trip heavy in pottering and reading, no rush at all - and stayed at Upper Caples when it was still managed by DoC. Must have been 25 people staying in the hut and camping on the clearing. Great experience though.
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Re: 11 days in NZ, looking for suitable summit hikes

Postby madpom » Tue 02 Feb, 2016 6:14 pm

(just read your change of dates - edited to correspond)

The big problem in the alpine area is making loop walks - especially in winter. The mountains kind of get in the way. For short there-and-back overnighters I'd recommend any of:

Makarora Hut (and valley head) from Makarora (Wanaka)
The Paringa Valley (from north of Haast) to Middle Head hut (or the rock biv in the north branch beyond it)
South Temple Hut (Twizel area) or valley head
Huxley Forks and maybe Broderick but check avalanche conditions (Twizel area)
Green Lake / Grebe valley / Lake Monowai head from Lake Monowai campground (Manopouri)
Takitimus - Spence Hut

You could also easily head into any of those and spend a day or two exploring the area. Not sure how 'winter' you mean - assuming it's April-May these should be fine (but check snow conditions / altitude).


And the longer Hollyford track. Popular, valley floor, but spectacular scenery around
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Re: 11 days in NZ, looking for suitable summit hikes

Postby rpalmer » Wed 03 Feb, 2016 11:54 pm

Just to clarify, we aren't intending on a middle of winter hike into alpine conditions. More likely on the lines of a May or September/October attempt at these popular great walks.

I checked out your suggestions madpom and couldn't help but notice that much of these walks were more valley based. Would you have any suggestions as to hikes that attain a summit? Eg. Mt Armstrong near Brewster Hut? I understand it is quite a narrow gap to not have mountaineering experience but still want to hike to a summit.

Thanks for the assistance regardless :)

P.S - Also we do have a 4 season tent and would be more than up to camping in an area without a hut.
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Re: 11 days in NZ, looking for suitable summit hikes

Postby madpom » Thu 04 Feb, 2016 3:44 am

Sorry - was assuming winter with snow loading around. Always nervous suggesting tops trips in winter as I don't know your avalance awareness knowledge and iceaxe/crampon skills.

In May you'd hope to beat the snows, but might not. Sept-oct i'd expect to hit the snowline at between 1400m and 1700m and would be carrying iceaxe & crampons for anything involving tops travel (assuming were still talking about the wanaka/queenstown area).
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Re: 11 days in NZ, looking for suitable summit hikes

Postby wayno » Thu 04 Feb, 2016 4:17 am

last year there was avalanche danger on and around the routeburn trac in november. the danger can still come and goes in spring with snow dumps.
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Re: 11 days in NZ, looking for suitable summit hikes

Postby rpalmer » Thu 04 Feb, 2016 12:18 pm

haha, I think I'm not being too clear.

What I mean is I'd be more inclined to try Milford and Routeburn in a colder month when it is less popular. Without extensive mountaineering experience and the proper equipment, we won't be trying any trips to the mountain tops (although this is why we're starting with a mountaineering course this year to open this path up).

I am however visiting NZ in March this year, so am looking for trips to mountain top or close to mountain tops as I'm hoping there is far less snow in that period, therefore not requiring crampons, ice axes and avalanche awareness knowledge.

We wouldn't be tackling a walk with avalanche danger without the proper knowledge beforehand.
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Re: 11 days in NZ, looking for suitable summit hikes

Postby bernieq » Fri 05 Feb, 2016 3:01 pm

I'm not sure if the suggestion below meets your criteria since your original itinerary suggests you're looking for a few short trips - but the Rees/Dart/Cascade suggestion perhaps indicates otherwise.

Assuming a longer trip is an option, what about the Five Passes tramp? There is a bit of valley tramping but it's interesting enough. However, it gets you to where there is lots of opportunity for peak-bagging and glacier watching :)

sunset peak.JPG
from Sunset Peak, high above Fohn Lake on the Five Passes tramp - Feb 2013
There is plenty of information available on the net - 5 to 8 days depending on what you do - in the same area as the Rees/Dart and Routeburn tramps (but definately not crowded - yet)
http://tramper.nz/8505/five-passes-via- ... north-col/

Unless there's been an early snow dump, March would be a good timing.

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Re: 11 days in NZ, looking for suitable summit hikes

Postby wayno » Fri 05 Feb, 2016 4:22 pm

you need to understand that some routes in NZ often get cut off and become impassable in heavy rain. you need to find out whether any route you choose falls into that category. parts of nz are amongst the wettest in the world with annual rainfall measured in metres. milford sound is the wettest in the world at sea level
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Re: 11 days in NZ, looking for suitable summit hikes

Postby rpalmer » Fri 05 Feb, 2016 4:27 pm

bernieq wrote:I'm not sure if the suggestion below meets your criteria since your original itinerary suggests you're looking for a few short trips - but the Rees/Dart/Cascade suggestion perhaps indicates otherwise.

Assuming a longer trip is an option, what about the Five Passes tramp? There is a bit of valley tramping but it's interesting enough. However, it gets you to where there is lots of opportunity for peak-bagging and glacier watching :)

sunset peak.JPG
There is plenty of information available on the net - 5 to 8 days depending on what you do - in the same area as the Rees/Dart and Routeburn tramps (but definately not crowded - yet)
http://tramper.nz/8505/five-passes-via- ... north-col/


That track does look spectacular and it was one that we looked into initially along with Rees Dart. It definitely will be one that we will look into further at attempting down the track.

Unfortunately for this particular trip, it will be too long for our plans now. We were hoping for at most a one or two night hike return trip.

Thank you for the suggestion though!

@wayno - Completely understand NZ weather can be extremely wet in the colder months. Obviously will be a gamble as we plan for an out of season hike. Rest assured, we aren't fantasizing that hiking out of season would be perfectly comfortable. However we will make sure that it is relatively safe to attempt. Best I can say is, there will be plenty of planning in a hike like that. Cheers
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Re: 11 days in NZ, looking for suitable summit hikes

Postby wayno » Fri 05 Feb, 2016 4:49 pm

No. NZ weather can be very wet any time of the year, up to half a metre of rain in a day in the middle of summer in places. some routes require reasonable weather to complete or allowance for extra time if you are cut off by rain.
fiordland and south westland can bring heavier rain in summer than in winter.. and winter rain is still heavy.
last time i was at milford sound, i could hardly see it for the rain.
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Re: 11 days in NZ, looking for suitable summit hikes

Postby rpalmer » Fri 05 Feb, 2016 4:55 pm

Thanks Wayno. Do understand there can be alot of rain in NZ during any season. We do plan for that.

For our Brewster Hut trip upcoming, we do acknowledge that if weather is not suitable, the hike simply will not happen.
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Re: 11 days in NZ, looking for suitable summit hikes

Postby wayno » Fri 05 Feb, 2016 5:00 pm

i usually have a plan B walk that can be done in wet weather in the area of where i'm planning to go., something is better than nothing.
last time i was in mt cook the weather was apocryphal. i ended up doing the touristy walk to hooker lake , it was still worth it for such a scenic area. less people on the track as well
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Re: 11 days in NZ, looking for suitable summit hikes

Postby rpalmer » Fri 05 Feb, 2016 5:23 pm

Absolutely, we've thought about a plan B for Brewster hut /Mt Armstrong hike. Whilst we'd like to keep rob Roy track as an alternative, I imagine heavy rain rain would make it unreachable driving our rental car.

Therefore we might try the Isthmus peak hike, possibly explore options of camping up there too.
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Re: 11 days in NZ, looking for suitable summit hikes

Postby srforum112 » Tue 01 Mar, 2016 12:10 pm

NZ can be very wet in Summer. Planned to walk the Five Passes from 24 January. We delayed the start by one day, walked up the Beans Burn Valley on 25th and were stopped by an inpassable side stream. The creeks and rivers rised very quickly as there is a huge catchment area in the mountains with nowhere for the water to go but down. Good experience for me to see how dangerous this situation is. We changed our plans and walked out to the Routeburn and did the last couple of days of the walk in reverse.

Have you considered Mt Aspiring NP? Walk up to French Ridge Hut or Liverpool Hut or Cascade Saddle? Beautiful area. Walks weather dependant.

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Re: 11 days in NZ, looking for suitable summit hikes

Postby rpalmer » Mon 07 Mar, 2016 3:46 pm

Hi Sonja,

I have considered Mt Aspiring NP. The walks up to French Ridge hut and Liverpool hut do look beautiful. The only issue is that with my limited time and infrequent visits to NZ, I would prefer to reach the summit of a peak or feature.

Cascade saddle does look amazing and it will be an alternative we'll consider from the Aspiring Hut side. However it's likely we'll still prefer Mt Armstrong. We would only go for our plan B if it was dodgy weather, wherein I'd imagine Cascade saddle would suffer from the same weather system.

Cheers for the tip though!
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