If you are not afraid of exposure and have experience hiking steep and difficult trails, this is without a doubt New Zealand's most challenging guided trek. Once the grassy flats of the Wilkin valley are left behind there are no more huts or crowds. You will not find a better way to experience the stunning alpine scenery of New Zealand, surrounded by unspoilt forests, alpine meadows, huge waterfalls, alpine lakes. Private campsites provide a “real New Zealand” backcountry hiking adventure.
This route requires good fitness, balance, coordination and a good head for heights. Much of this route is off any prepared track so the terrain is uneven, there are numerous unbridged and unavioidable side streams and rivers to cross, steep rocky hillsides to scramble up and down and long days.
Check out this great footage of Rabbit Pass : Going Up and Going Down
Rabbit Pass links the Wilkin Valley with the Matukituki Valley in the heart of Mt Aspiring National Park
“The moment you head onto the pass and the whole East Matukituki opens up in front of you. It's a staggering view from what was previously a somewhat enclosed environment. The thrill of climbing the waterfall face would be a close second.”
Rabbit Pass is located in Mount Aspiring National Park, part of the Te Wāhipounamu - South West New Zealand World Heritage Area. This four day alpine crossing links two of the region's major river valleys. This area is spectacular, surrounded by high glacier covered peaks, waterfalls and lakes. This is home to many other rare and endangered species including the Kea, the World's only alpine parrot.
Our professional guide will ensure your safety as we explore this remote and seldom visited area. The crossing of Rabbit Pass is a challenging alpine crossing requiring good conditions to safely ascend and descend steep and exposed terrain. Prolonged periods of bad weather may prevent the crossing in which case the time is utlised exploring the alpine scenery of the Upper Wilkin area. Overnight gear and a delicious menu is provided at our private camps so all you carry is a light day pack.
C = confirmed to run
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To enjoy your Rabbit Pass trek you need to have excellent fitness and some prior specific training may be required. You must have good balance and coordination and not be afraid of heights. There is significant exposure to falling with small footholds and ledges. Sometimes the footing is unstable and hikers need to be good on their feet and be comfortable on rough or slippery ground (you will not encounter deep mud). Hiking boots are needed for increased security rather than lighter trail shoes. Hikers should be able to maintain a steady pace for long periods of time. Your pack will be considerably lighter without sleeping & camping equipment. There are many sidestreams and river crossings.
Track times and distances in New Zealand can be deceiving. The tracks here are quite slow progress compared to other countries and the days will be long. The nature of the terrain means that you seldom get long stretches of fast travel. Tracks twist through the forest, there are streams and waterfalls to negotiate as well as steep ascents and descents. In the alpine there can be loose scree or exposed drops. Do not be deceived into thinking that days with short mileage will be easy; days that we travel less that 10km can be more tiring that days we travel considerably more distance. Call it what you want but it is never dull.
We meet with transport and guide at 8:30 a.m. and travel 45 minutes to the small village of Makarora. Here we board a helicopter and fly into the heart of Mount Aspiring Park. A leisurely 20 minute walk brings us to the Top Forks Hut. The afternoon is spent exploring this marvelous area.
6-7 hrs 500m ascent 500m descent.
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. Pickelhaub Camp is an expedition type setup with a cook tent, table and chairs with smaller four person tents to sleep in.
9-11 hrs 900m ascent 650 descent
Waking to sound of icefalls crashing off the towering Mnt. 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 set up as the night before.
7-8 hrs 200m descent 300 ascent
It is the last day of the trek, and we all know what that means, that’s right: pancakes, whipped cream and blueberry jam. The trail down to the valley floor winds through tall beech forest with Mt. Aspiring dominating the view. Gradually the track opens out into farm land just before we meet our waiting transport back to civilization and a hot shower.
5 hrs 500m descent
This video provides practical demonstration of the common equipment and clothing required for hiking in New Zealand.
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