Queenstown to Wanaka options
Hi, I am planning a trip to the South Island next February (it's been an annual trip for the past 2 years). We're exploring ways to go from QT to Wanaka. The two routes I've come up with so far are: - Arrowtown - Macetown - Matatapu track - Wanaka (60km-ish) or - Wanaka - Cascade saddle - Rees or Dart Valley - Glenorchy Does anyone have any opinions on these? I've read that Cascade Saddle needs to be done from Aspiring Hut to Dart hut, as the Pylon is too steep to descent in reverse. Which is the more stunning route? Thanks, Ian
cascade saddle is strictly a good weather route only, several deaths and numerous serious injuries that all happen in bad weather... snow or ice, steep and slick tussock when wet and flash flooding side streams... going down to aspiring hut is potentially more dangerous than going up. there might be booking introduced to dart hut, requiring advanced booking, february is when its packed, up to twice as many people as bunks...
To answer the original question: 1) yes - those are the only 2 common routes. Other routes that exist (eg Shotover saddle) are untracked, need very good navigational skills and cross private land. 2) The two routes you mention are very different. Motutapu is a marked maintained track through a working high country farm - vast high country tussocklands. It is part of Te Araroa and thus busy from Nov to early March. Cascase saddle is an steep exposed alpine _route_. Marked, but not maintained to track standard. Alpine: peaks, bluffs, glaciers, and as @wayno points out claiming lives on a fairly regular basis. That said it gets a lot of traffic these days and has become quite popular with tourists. Descending steep slippery snowgrass above high bluffs is generally more dangerous than ascending it - hence the recommendation to travel N-S. The Rees Dart section is very popular and full huts are a possability. On the presumption that like me you find mountains & glaciers more soectacular than tussocklands - Cascade will be the more spectacular.
Great feedback, thanks guys. Definitely prefer the sound of the Cascade route. Whilst myself and running partner are keen, there is a possibility that two more runners, who are not so happy with heights, are coming. It sounds like the Cascade saddle would be too much for them? To go from Aspiring hut to Dart hut, how long would this take approx? It's obviously a big climb, but what is descending the saddle on the Dart side like? From Dart Hut to Arrowtown, what are the trails like (in good weather)? Are they 'quite fast' to traverse? Thanks again for your input.
Can you clarify: are you tramping or running? Yoyr original post said nothing about running. I wouldn't take on the slippery steep snowgrass slopes of Cascade in running shoes - no way. Personally I'd probably even have the ice axe in hand to arrest any falls or slides - though I wouldn't say that an ice axe was _required_. Understand: you're spending a significant amount of time traversing slopes where an unarrested slide will be fatal.
Hi Madpom, Although our trip is fast-packing (i.e running when we can), for this section (Aspiring hut to Dart hut), we will definitely be tramping and taking our time. Zero risks will be taken (I've been reading blogs and articles all day today about the risks associated with Cascade Saddle.....it certainly has earned my respect!). However, the route prior to this, from Wanaka to Aspiring hut will be majority running. Appreciate your comments re running shoes. We will have 'trail' shoes, which have greater tread on the soles. Not sure if you'd still not recommend these. Although on a totally different scale, we do climb local mountains with exposed rock faces, upon which the result of an un-arrested fall being the same as at Cascade Saddle. In dry, the trail shoes grip well. In wet, you'd simply not attempt the climbs irrespective of shoe-ware.
cascade saddle route isn't the place for anyone who doesnt like heights. long steep climb, a lot of it is above the bush line and you get a full view of the drop, takes several hours to complete the climb. the dart descent is pretty straight forward, a steep walk going down through screen, the upper dart can get very hot in summer from the bare rock. i went through 4 litres of water, but you have a stream an hour into the climb on the matukituki side, up top and down below at the dart, i didnt take on water at the top and ran out.. there has been discussion recently about whether they should change the route on the Matukituki side. a month after u did it, a chap fell to his death, he was wearing running shoes, there was a bit of ice around... he couldnt stop his slide and went over a major cliff. most NZ trampers i know prefer boots over running shoes, especially on the less smooth routes. even on popular tracks boots can be better, I took running shoes to Angelus hut and I would have been better with stiffer soled boots over all the rocks.
Although I'm sure it can change overnight, but in the summer months, is there ice/snow at the top?
Snow/ice in feb would be unusual but not impossible. I certainly wouldnt expect remnant winter snow/ice but some years you might possibly get fresh light falls- which are probably more trecherous. We have had snow there this month for a few days.
wet tussock is worse, footwear choice won't help much for that,
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