The Mount Aspiring National Park is New Zealand’s third largest national park and lies within the Southwest New Zealand World Heritage Area. The park has been nearly entirely formed by the intense glaciation of the last Ice Age and is topped by the 3,033m high Mount Aspiring. The park is a stunning mix of remote wilderness, snow capped peaks, rare wildlife and untouched crystal clear mountain rivers. The parks various tracks and hikes is heaven on earth for trekkers and mountaineers.

There are at least 27 hikes or short walks within the park, which range from a 15minute walk to a roadside waterfall, to multi day arduous hikes, either way the scenery is stunning. A friend and I decided to attempt to climb Mount Aspiring (‘the Matterhorn of the South’) which is a classic horned peak formed by ancient glaciers. Although it should be noted that climbing Mount Aspiring should not be attempted without the proper equipment and training, as it is a serious undertaking, therefore if you’re not experienced a guided climb is definitely recommended. Our adventure from the trailhead carpark at the end of the Wanaka-Mount Aspiring Rd would take us a full 5 days!

We decided to tackle the climb over the Christmas period when the mountain huts and tracks are quieter. The weather can also be stable around this period too with enough of the winter snow remaining to make the glacier crossing somewhat easier. So after a night in Wanaka re-organising our packs, visiting the Department of Conservation Offices to pick up radios and log our intentions, pay for hut fees etc we woke to stunning weather and were off through the stunning farmland towards the trailhead.

While at the trailhead we were lucky to meet a friendly guide from a local climbing company who offered to airlift some of our heavier equipment with him and his client to Bevan Col as many guided trips start with a helicopter ride to save the time and energy approaching the Bonar Glacier.  With lighter packs (thank goodness) we made our way across the Aspiring and Pearl flats and made camp near Scott’s Rock Biv. Early the next morning we were able to fully appreciate how stunning the park was and in particular this spot below the cliffs we’d have to climb. The climb was difficult, but not particularly technical, but you are rewarded with simply epic views across the Bonar Glacier to Mt Aspiring/Mt Tititea from Bevan Col.

Once at Bevan Col we would rope ourselves together and carefully cross the glacier (taking between 1 and 2 hours) being mindful to avoid any crevasses or thin ice bridges to finally reach Colin Todd Hutt (1800m) which would be the base of our ascent.  The following day we again woke to a perfect windless day which we would use to recover from the exhausting previous days and explore the next day’s route up the mountain and practice some skills.

The day we attempted to climb to the summit, started early around 3:30am and kicked off with a hearty breakfast and warm sugary fluids.  We had planned our departure so that we would reach the more difficult technical sections as day broke. You are just in awe as you watch the shadows of these majestic peaks stretch to the horizon eventually giving way as the sun rises over the Southern Alps.  The most technical section of the climb lay ahead of us as we stared up along the upper NW ridge.  The summit ridge would have taken us about 2 hours to summit one of the most iconic New Zealand peaks from which you are afforded staggering view of the Southern Alps.

However, as it turned out we didn’t get to experience a lot of that as partway up the first section before reaching the ridge my climbing buddy started to feel uneasy about continuing and decided to pull out, so our day was done as I didn’t feel comfortable continuing without him. We would instead continue up the Bonar Glacier, crossing the energy sapping snow field during the day which isn’t usually smart as it is much harder work. Eventually after a big 12hr day from Colin Todd we stopped off at French Hut. This hut has to be located in one of the most amazing locations as the views of the Matukituki River Valley are stunning. We would descend further and camp on Pearl Flat before walking out to our car at the trailhead carpark on the 5th day of our adventure. Even though we were unsuccessful in our attempt to summit Aspiring, it was an incredible hiking/climbing trip with unbelievable weather and stupendous views each and every day.  

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