Cascade Saddle is a popular four day hike. Surprisingly it has the highest fatality rate of any route in New Zealand. Although it is usually benign, the route can be dangerous under certain conditions. Some people are keen to do the entire four day trip on their own, but would feel more comfortable with a little guidance, and this is where we can be of assistance. On this trip our guide will give you advice and help you get past the tricky part of the route. Once you are over the saddle and on your way to the Dart Hut, the guide will leave you to continue independently down the Rees or Dart Valley while he/she returns to Wanaka. With a little local knowledge you can make things easier for yourself!
This trip is designed for people who wish to complete the Cascade Saddle Route but are concerned that they may not be experienced enough to tackle the tricky terrain & the logistics of the trip.
Is the weather good enough? Where does the track start? Do I need to carry water? How do I get there? Should we go if it is foggy? What equipment do I need? Instead of guesswork - use a guide! We provide a guide to help you get started and you do the rest. We provide transport from Wanaka and give you valuable logistical support and advice to make sure your trip has the greatest chance of success.
The NZ Mountain Safety Council has also made this movie which explains the route well - be sure to watch it before heading off.
Route from Aspiring Hut over Cascade Saddle
It was very challenging but we chose to have a guide due to the difficulty of this route. Our day across the saddle was long and pretty arduous with thigh deep creek crossing at the end..!! But the view was spectacular and well worth it! Jess was thoroughly professional and focused on safety. She did a great job in getting us to the top. Thank you so much for your patience and guidance... I doubt we would have made it otherwise (and still be on speaking terms anyway). I would recommend this trip for friends who wanted a real challenge and had done the 'easy' walks already. Amazingly fulfilling experience for all of us! The girls are planning their next trip of course...
Cascade Saddle (1835m) is world famous for its spectacular views of Mt Aspiring. It links the majestic West Matukituki and Dart Valleys in the Mount Aspiring National Park.
Rather than stay at Aspiring Hut on the first night, we prefer to hike to the tree line and camp out. This makes the next day much easier as it is a long distance to the Dart Hut. We can supply the tents if you don't have your own, and we can arrange for your guide to bring them out, so you don't have to carry them with you for the rest of the hike.
The ascent to the Pylon at the top of the Cascade Saddle is steep and exposed and often people need a little help and advice on the first day of the trip. Our guide escorts you safely over the top. Your guide will stay with you until you feel confident to continue on your own down to the Dart Hut and then he/she will return to Wanaka.
We can also advise on transport to Wanaka and from the end of your hike back to Queenstown.
Cascade Saddle is a well formed track for the first two hours in the forest. Once it gets above tree line the track steepens with frequent switchbacks. Several sections of rock slab are encountered and footing can be precarious at times. Most of the track is quite safe but a slip in the wrong place can result in an uncontrollable slide on the slippery snow grass with cliffs and bluffs below. Statistically Cascade Saddle is the most dangerous track in the country with fatalities happening roughly every other year. Hikers should have good balance and be comfortable with heights.
The ascent from Aspiring Hut to the high point on the route goes from 460m to 1835m - a big climb in anyone’s book! Camping at tree line eases the route significantly by splitting the climb in two. Hikers should be capable of maintaining a slow but steady pace up a steep hill for extended lengths of time. Pack weight should be kept to a minimum.
*camping equipment, food and hut fees not included in price
The trip begins with a gear check and a scenic drive through the Matukituki Valley (saves you the cost of a bus). A two hour gentle walk brings you to Aspiring Hut where you may spend the night. If the weather permits we prefer to camp out at the tree line which is a big advantage the next day. The trail is exposed and traverses several rocky bluffs. In good weather the track is straightforward, steep and exposed. If the weather is not perfect, you will be especially glad to have an experienced guide along!
Once you are on top (3-5 hours) the trail traverses an alpine valley until it begins its descent into the Dart Valley. If the weather changes, or visibility is poor, this section of the trip can be very difficult for even experienced walkers and hikers. The guide stays with you until you are comfortably down the other side and then returns to Wanaka.
NB: 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.
This video provides practical demonstration of the common equipment and clothing required for hiking in New Zealand.
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