For ambitious hikers who want an experience of climbing a glacier and standing on a summit, Mt French is the perfect trekking peak. This is your chance to enjoy a hiking adventure starting in New Zealand's famously scenic Matukituki valley and culminating in amazing views overlooking the Bonar Glacier dwarfed by the magnificent Mt Aspiring. We supply all the technical gear; all you need is a good pair of boots and a spirit of adventure. New Zealand's glaciers are spectacular but very few people ever get to visit the catchments of these vast oceans of snow.
With all the technical gear pre-placed, all you need to carry is a light pack and a sense of adventure.
French Ridge rises steeply out of the Matukituki Valley and reaches the Bonar Glacier at its summit.
"We were after a memorable adventure, and we sure got it. It was the two of us with an experienced guide, Tony. We trekked along the valley, crossed freezing rivers barefoot, battled gravity 1,000m with our packs up very steep NZ mountains, stayed in a mountaineering hut amongst the mountains. And that was Day 1. Day 2 involved crampons, ice axes and ropes. We came very close to crevices, but stayed away. Another 900m straight up, before descending down to the hut. For anyone in need of a serious challenge, a memorable experience and a heap of fun - try this one. The company is very experienced, the guides good and the pricing reasonable given the low ratio of clients per guide.”
The magnificence of this region speaks for itself. It is a demanding hiking trip and requires a high fitness level. You will have the opportunity to discover the grandeur of the alpine regions and develop an approach to the mountain environment.
The route passes directly below Mount Aspiring with amazing views. Mount Aspiring itself is a majestic peak and the only peak over 3000 metres outside Mount Cook National Park. The Mount Aspiring National Park is renowned for its wonderful mixture of remote wilderness, high mountains and beautiful river valleys. It is a walker's paradise and a must for mountaineers. The views are endless and unforgettable. The park is part of Te Wahipounamu - Southwest New Zealand World Heritage Area. Mount Aspiring National Park straddles the southern end of the Southern Alps.
Pack 30-40 litre Weight 6-9kg
Hikers should be used to walking on uneven ground and be able to walk up steep hills for an extended length of time. The French Ridge track is steep, real steep. Clutching at roots and pulling yourself up over obstacles will give you a whole new appreciation of New Zealand hiking. Mercifully the steepness quickly subsides once you reach the tree line after a couple hours. Above the trees the track has views of the surrounding peaks and valleys that are iconically New Zealand. You do not have to carry a lot of gear because ropes, harnesses, crampons, and ice axes are stored at the hut. Pack weight 6-9 kg
We meet at our office in Wanaka where your guide will check your clothing and equipment and you can ask any last minute questions. It is a beautiful drive up the Matukituki Valley to the trail head. The route begins with 3.5 hours of walking in open river meadows before it sharply turns and ascends the steep ridge. The French Ridge track is steep, real steep. Clutching at roots and pulling yourself up over obstacles will give you a whole new appreciation of New Zealand hiking. Mercifully the steepness quickly subsides once you reach tree line - after couple hours as you get above the trees the track has views of the surrounding peaks and valleys that are iconically New Zealand. This is a very special place.
6-7 hrs 1080m ascent
An early start after breakfast and we head on up to the snow. Using crampons you continue to follow the French ridge. The ground slopes away sharply on each side until after an hour you reach the toe of the Quarterdeck Pass Glacier. Here the snow is broken by crevasses and your guide will careful show you how to safely navigate your way. Depending on the time of year, the glacier can be either a smooth ramp leading to the pass, or a jumbled icefall that you weave through. Either way, the views of the Bonar Glacier and Mt Aspiring that you get when you reach the pass are worth every bit of effort. With the difficulties of the ascent behind you, the summit of Mt French is a short distance from the pass along a snow ridge. Return to French Ridge Hut.
6-7 hrs 780m ascent/descent
After leaving French Ridge Hut the track takes us back towards the valley floor. After down climbing the steep sections it’s magic to be back on flat ground again. We have a few more hours before reaching Aspiring Hut where we usually have lunch. Two hours of walking beside the Matukituki River brings us back to our vehicle and the ride back to base.
6-7 hrs 1080m descent.
This video provides practical demonstration of the common equipment and clothing required for hiking in New Zealand.
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