Sunday, February 17, 2008

Mt. Aspiring National Park - West Matukituki

The last couple of days we spent our time camping in Mt. Aspiring National Park. The park has some of the most spectacular scenery in the Southern Alps, with mountains capped in snow all year and glaciers hanging over several peaks. It's also very popular for mountaineering, and the valley we were in provides access for many of the popular climbs.
We walked in along the West Matukituki Valley, following the pale blue river upstream for about 9km. It's a fairly easy walk, although the cows grazing the valley floor do leave a lot of stinky obstacles behind!

We arrived at Aspiring Hut around midday (the drive out to the carpark is a slow one along dirt roads with cow grates and several fords to get over.) The hut is owned by the New Zealand Alpine Club, not by the Dept. of Conservation, so our annual hut passes aren't useful there. Being a fancy hut with gas cookers and flush toilets, they charge a hefty $25 per night to stay there.
So instead, we brought our tent and camped just past the hut for $5 each.

Unfortunately, the sand flies were out in force. It was not to be a peaceful night at the campsite! So we lightened our loads, and headed off onto another trail to get away from the flies. We climbed the Cascade Saddle track, which eventually leads to the other side of the ridge. We didn't get very far though, as it was quite steep and we had no real need to make it to any particular point. After about 90 minutes of climbing I was getting clumsy and grumpy, so we turned around and headed back down.

We danced around to make dinner among the flies, then fled inside the tent to eat it. It's such a shame when you're in a remarkably beautiful place like that, and you can't just relax and enjoy it. There was a spectacular view from the valley of the surrounding mountains, including Mt. Aspiring itself. We saw various climbers coming back to the hut with their helmets, ropes and ice axes. Too much work for me!

The next morning we tramped back to a swing bridge near the beginning of the track, and took the side trail up to the viewpoint for the Rob Roy Glacier. It was another uphill climb for about 90 minutes, but we stashed some of our gear in the trees at the start of the track so we were climbing up light. The hanging glacier is very striking, with waterfalls streaming off of it in at least a dozen places. It was a lovely place to sit and enjoy the sunshine, have a snack, and be generally impressed by the remarkable beauty of nature. We even got to see a bit of the glacier calving, though not a large chunk.

It was a lovely trip with clear, sunny skies making everything even more glorious. This really must be one of the most scenic places in the world. Although it would be much improved if they'd do away with the cows!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey you! Hope you guys are having a fantastic vacay. Can't wait to see the pics! XO G