MT COOK NZ

MT COOK
&
GILLESPIE PASS

9 Days 3900 ex Christchurch

Accommodation

3 Nights Camping
2 Nights Mountain Lodge
3 Nights Hotel Stay

Transportation

Mostly on foot
Transfers included

Included Meals

8 Breakfasts
7 Lunches
6 Dinners

Trip Grade

Category 3
High Heart Rate Holiday

Charity

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There is a special silence one experiences when in the company of remote, giant mountains. Sound seems to be crisper as if you are wearing noise cancelling headphones. And there are a multitude of dynamics at play all at once. On the summits, snow is churned up by high velocity winds, but you cannot hear it. From the valley or the ridge on which you are standing, the air is calm. The morning light shines first on the summit, while you remain in darkness. A distant rumble of an avalanche can be heard or the moaning progress of the glaciers below. There is movement but it is imperceptible. It is nature at its’ rawest. The giant mountain you are witnessing is Aoraki-Mt Cook and you are on expedition, exploring these mountains and the epic Gillespie Pass.

Legend has it that Aoraki and his three brothers were the sons of Rakinui, the Sky Father. They were on a voyage around Papatuanuku, the Earth Mother, when their canoe was stranded after striking a reef in the ocean. Aoraki and his brothers climbed onto the top of their canoe. The cold south wind froze them, and turned them into stone. Their canoe became New Zealand’s South Island, which was then called Te Waka o Aoraki. Aoraki, the tallest of the brothers, became the highest peak. His brothers and crew became the other mountains of the Southern Alps.

Climbing on things like the South Ridge [of Mt Cook] certainly gave me the experience and confidence, I think, which ultimately probably got me to the top of Mt Everest.

Sir Edmund Hillary

“The Gillespie Pass Circuit Trail, located around an hour’s drive from Wanaka, is a downright humdinger of a hike. It serves up 58km worth of everything that’s great about trekking in New Zealand and all with a fraction of the crowds you’d find on the Great Walks!”

Aidan Howes – We Are Explorers

We think this could possibly be the best New Zealand mountain hike you won’t find in any guidebook. New Zealand’s incredible landscapes are emphasised on this backcountry adventure where you will trek along mountain ridgelines, past high altitude lakes, and near glaciers that spill down into majestic valleys of green and crisscrossing rivers. This is the stuff of Lord of the Rings as our small group hikes from New Zealand’s highest peak, Aoraki/ Mt Cook (3,724 meters), to the Southern Alps and trails few venture on. This is NZ at its’ best!

Our adventure begins in wonderful Christchurch. From there we head south toward Mt Aoraki / Mt Cook. However, before reaching our accommodation we will do a short walk up Mt John for our first awesome view of the mountain range. From there we will arrive in Mount Cook Village where our accommodation will have incredible views of Mt Cook and its’ companion mountains. You can’t get much closer to the mountains than this.

For the next couple of days, we will trek through these valleys and up onto the Mueller Ridge, the closest you can get to Mt Cook without climbing it. There is also a chance to do some heli trekking on the Tasman Glacier.

From Mt Cook, we head into the Southern Alps for a 4-day hike over Gillespie Pass. This is a demanding trek but one well worth the effort as we traverse through picturesque and dramatic ecosystems, from temperate forests into mountain grasslands. We will take our time however as a place like this needs to be savoured. Your journey will also take in Lake Crucible before a jetboat ride back to Queenstown, on the shores lake Wakatipu.

Our Mt Cook Gillepsie Pass trek is for those that love the outdoors, long for mountain landscapes, enjoy walking with like-minded adventurers and don’t mind helping out with a spot of cooking along the way. This is an incredible journey into an area of New Zealand you may never have heard about.

Mt Cook at Dawn New Zealand
Sign to Seally Tarn New Zealand
Mueller Hut Mt Cook

The Journey

Check into our hotel and then dinner and briefing about your adventure. Includes dinner. (D).

We depart from our hotel at around 8.00 am and commence our drive south to Lake Tekapo, famous for its stunning turquoise waters and the quaint Church of the Good Shepherd. On arriving at Lake Tekapo we will hike up through wilding conifers and tussock grasslands to the summit of Mt John and revel in the 360-degree views of the Patagonia-like landscape. The sweeping Mackenzie Basin is a sparsely populated region with tawny-brown drylands, braided riverbeds and startling glacial lakes extending to the horizon.

We arrive at Mt Cook Village in the late afternoon and then relax and enjoy breath-taking views of New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki/ Mt Cook (3,724 metres). Here we will spend the next two nights in the heart of the Southern Alps surrounded by that special kind of silence that only big mountains can command.

Tonight we will overnight in a very cozy mountain lodge. (B.L,D).

Today we will hike to Sealy Tarns and onto Mueller Ridge. Just when you think you have taken the most impressive photo possible of the Hooker Valley and Mt Cook Range you will be rewarded with the mirror reflections of the peaks in the glorious Sealy Tarns. Take some time to rest at the tarns and absorb the impressive peaks and valleys. From the tarns, we then hike steeply onto Mueller Ridge. From here the vista encompasses the Mueller Glacier and Mt Sefton. As we return to the village by the same route we will meet up again with anyone who stayed on at the tarns, for the descent.

There is time in the afternoon to visit the Information Centre. This is a great place to be inspired by the courageous stories of pioneering mountaineers and to learn about the park’s natural history.

Overnight in the same cozy mountain lodge. (B,L,D)

Optional Heli Hike on the Tasman Glacier, price $620 per person. Trip duration of 3-4 hours, weather dependent. It is possible for some guests to join this heli hike then complete the Sealy tarns hike in the afternoon.

After breakfast, we hike steep glacial moraines to the Red Tarns, so named for the colour of their pond-weed. The vegetation changes as we climb from the valley floor to a superb panoramic viewpoint of the valleys below, the village and Aoraki/Mount Cook. On our return to the village, we will drive to Wanaka following the Mackenzie country south before climbing over the tussock lands of the Lindis Pass into the southern lakes district.

Wanaka is a lovely holiday town on the lake-side where will have time for a walk around the town or have a coffee as the guide restocks for the next few days. It is then just a short drive to Makarora at the head of Lake Wanaka. Tonight, we will sleep in cabins at Makarora, beside Mount Aspiring National Park. We have a big day tomorrow, so have a night off cooking and eat dinner and play a game of pool in classic West Coast style at the adjacent pub before heading back to your cabin to pack for the multi-day hike.

The cabins are right on the lake with great views of the surrounding landscape. (B, L)

Once across the Makarora River, we follow the Young River. The Young Valley is a wonderland of dense native forest and high peaks. The trail steepens and climbs steadily to the tree line. The track climbs steeply for 100m and then sidles through a series of unstable slips to reach Stag Creek. From here, it’s a steady climb to Young Hut.

Tonight we will be staying in a basic mountain hut. (B,L,D)

After a short forest walk, we will come out into a spectacular vista of Mt Awful. Don’t let the name fool you as the view is far from awful. This is really an alpine paradise with towering mountains as our backdrop. The track climbs steeply alongside a rock bluff onto a snow grass spur that after 3 to 4 hours, leads to the pass. The final 90 minutes or so is a little scrambly but the climbing ends at Gillespie Pass and one of the great viewpoints of the Southern Alps. From here there’s an impressive view, with Mount Alba dominating the skyline.

The track descends steeply before sidling down through a series of snow grass basins. The track leads down to Gillespie Stream before descending in a series of zigzags to Siberia Stream. From the Siberia Stream, it is an hour to Siberia Hut.

Tonight we will be staying in the cozy yet basic Siberia Hut. (B,L,D)

Set at 1172m, high above Siberia Valley, nestled under Mount Alba, is Lake Crucible, an excellent day trip from Siberia Hut. We may have a little sleep in today before heading out, hiking up the valley flats to Crucible Stream, where the track climbs a narrow spur, crossing a river, before coming out on a snow grass flat. The Crucible Basin is home to fragile alpine herb fields. Keep an eye out for little rock wrens that call this area home. This day hike also allows us to use the day to cross the pass in case we are unable to cross the pass the day before due to poor weather.

Tonight we will be staying in the cozy yet basic Siberia Hut. (B,L,D)

Today we head down the valley – sidling above the Siberia River. We gain spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and waterfalls of the lower Siberia Valley. A jetboat will pick us up at the confluence of the Siberia and Wilkin valleys, on the Wilkins river and carry us on a thrilling 45-minute journey downstream to Makarora.

Tonight we are back in Queenstown and a wonderful hotel and hot shower. (B,L)

Kia Ora and we are sure you will return to wonderful New Zealand one day soon.

Includes

  • Seven days guided trek with an experienced guide
  • All accommodation including nights before and after the expedition in Christchurch and Queenstown
  • All breakfast, lunches and dinners as per itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
  • Jetboat transfer
  • All transfers

Excludes

  • Beverages
  • Personal souvenirs
  • Meals not outlined in the itinerary
  • International Flights
Daniel Murphy Guide New Zealand

This trip is for those who love mountain treks and mountain landscapes. Who enjoy roughing it a little by staying in mountain cabins and don’t mind carrying their own pack (total weight 10-13kg) for a few days and some food provisions for the group. It’s for those who enjoy pushing themselves a little to gain access to wonderful landscapes and views.

Daniel Murphy,
New Zealand Guide.

Journey Extensions

Check out our Journey Extensions for those that want to stay a little longer or try something different along the way.

Helicopter on Mt Cook

On day 3 of our trek, for those that want to see Mt Cook and the Tasman Glacier up close, we can arrange a Heli Trek. The trip takes between 3-4 hours and will give you the opportunity to trek on top of an incredibly beautiful glacier. This trip is weather dependent of course.

Price per person is $600.

Your Guides and Safety

An excellent guide can make the difference between a trip of a lifetime and just an ordinary trip. Our handpicked professionals come from a range of backgrounds. Each has extensive outdoor and hiking experience and a passion for New Zealand’s wild and beautiful backcountry. The guide will ensure that your trip is truly inspiring, a huge amount of fun, and safe. All guides are trained in Mountain Safety First Aid.

In 1998, after the New Zealand Government settled with Ngāi Tahu (the principle Maori iwi / tribe of the South Island), the name of Mt Cook was officially changed to Mt Cook / Aoraki to incorporate its’ Maori name.

Accommodation

Accommodation is a mixture of delightful hotels, cozy mountain lodges and back-country huts.

The hotels in Christchurch and Queenstown are well appointed and very comfortable. 

At Mt Cook / Aoraki we are staying in a very cozy mountain lodge with wonderful views of the valley up to the mountain range. Rooms are delightful and each has its’ own bathroom. There is a communal lounge area with an excellent selection of books and of course the ubiquitous fireplace.

In the back-country we will be utilising New Zealand’s famed huts. These are fairly basic with toilets usually in a separate building and bedrooms are normally in dorm style. There is a communal kitchen where we will cook up some excellent back-country meals.

Gillespie Pass

The Gillespie Pass trail is a 58 kilometer hike through some of New Zealand’s most incredible and pristine mountain country.

Our first night on the trail is at Young Hut. By the time you get there you won’t feel so young, but you will feel exhilarated by the terrain you have trekked. Of course it is the longest section of the entire trail, what great adventure wouldn’t have a massive “Welcome to my home” first day. The hike usually takes between 7 and 9 hours depending on the weather.

The following day is another big one but the views on the way to Siberia Hut are breathtaking. Furthermore, we will spend 2 nights at Siberia so you can almost feel like you are on a Staycation (sort of!). The trail up to Gillespie Pass is at time scrambly and is a good 90 minute slog to the 1600 meter top. The reward though is well worth it.

The hike to Crucible Lake is a wonderful day out and the easiest of the the entire trail.

The final day is also quite cruisy, especially since we have hired a Jet Boat to take us back to civilization.

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