Hey yall, I'm new to the site and have been super appreciative of all the great resources and recommendations available. Thank you all so much! I am planning a trip to the South Islad NZ from Dec 13- Jan 15 or so this year, the vast majority of which I plan to spend tramping. I am a strong hiker and have done loads of multi-day trips in alpine areas in the Rockies and Cascades of the US. My equipment is high quality and my backcountry safety and navigation skills are high (although I'm new to trekking in NZ). If dedicated, I can walk more than 35km a day on marked mountainous trails (though I prefer much slower). I'm planning on hitching as much as possible but I'm down to take buses if significantly more convenient (I've hitched through NZ quite a bit in the past with great success). All that considered, I'm having a hard time narrowing down what trails I'd like to hike. I'm having some FOMO (fear of missing out). Below is my rough plan so far. I would love suggestions and feedback. Specifically: Is there anything that should be cut out. This plan is slightly too ambitious for only 4 weeks and I need to pare it down a bit especially considering that weather might slow me down. Is it worth the hassle and crowds of Routeburn and Kepler if I hike Five Passes and Cascade Saddle+Dart? Is Mueller Hut & Mt Cook essential considering the travel time to get there? Thanks for your input! THE PLAN: Fly into Nelson to buy supplies and DOC hut pass, stay night in hostel bus to Picton, ferry to Queen Charlotte Track Queen Charlotte track (3.5 days) hitch to Havelock, resupply, hitch to Pelorus Track Pelorus Track & Richmond Range w/ Red Hills alternate (6 days) hitch to St. Arnaud, meet friend with resupply, stay night in hostel on Xmas Waiu Pass Track (6 days) hitch to Hamner Springs, soak and relax for 2 nights in hostel Bus to Christchurch then on to Mt Cook, stay night in Mt Cook Village Mueller Hut (2 days/1 night) hitch to Wanaka, resupply, stay night in hostel hitch to Cascade Saddle Cascade Saddle + Dart Track (3 days) hitch to Queenstown, stay night in hostel, resupply, hitch to Routeburn shelter Five Passes Circuit + Routeburn track (5-6 days) Bus from Divide to Te Anau, resupply and stay night in hostel Kepler track (3 days/2 nights) Bus to Christchurch or Queenstown to fly home
Looks great! But quite a few tracks will be fully booked out already if you have not prebooked them I think? I.e. Kepler, Routeburn, if you haven't booked them 1 year in advance, you can't stay in the hut, but possibly still do it if you tent. A tent is advised anyway, as you are doing quite a few sections which are also hiked by TA hikers, and it is the summer holiday, so huts will be overfull.
Thanks for the heads up Berend. I will definitely be carrying my tent and cook set. I've been tracking dates on the Routeburn and Kepler and there are a (VERY) few spots left (some camping) on dates that would work for me.
So, you're aware that Christmas period is peak tourist season, that internet social media has drawn people to 'hot spot' trending sites, that NZ pretty much shuts down for worker & school holidays then, Te Araroa Trail has railroaded hikers into particular huts/sites ?. Where you need bookings, get them now. Sometimes you can get primo stays because of cancellations. Worth checking from time to time. Suggest you plan around what you can confirm now. Stay flexible for opportunities. Plenty of hikes you can do in areas where you need to fill days. Much the same advice as Berend. That's pretty much what you're flying into.
Yep, I am aware of all of that Pro-active. Thanks for the reminders and for the heads up on cancellations. I've done a fair bit of research and booking already. For the most part I plan on sleeping at DOC campsites to have a bit more privacy on the busier tracks. As of now Mueller Hut is available, I can still book campsites on Kepler (plenty available), and I'm considering doing Routeburn in a single day (no campsites left for dates that work and $130/night for a bunk seems spendy). I'm really just curious if you had to cut something out of my itinerary above, what would it be? I'm leaning towards eliminating the Cascade Saddle+Dart portion at the moment.
Kepler campsites are at Brod Bay & Iris Burn. That's going to be a very long Day 2. if you transition thru the Luxmore Hut. More do-able if you go clockwise, with Iris Burn before Luxmore, because you can simply carry on downhill from Luxmore to Brod Bay. Just means you have the sun in your eyes. To come up to Luxmore & push thru to Iris Burn would be a significant grunt of a day. Trail runners do the whole thing in a day if you want to strip down to running shoes, sun hat & a water bottle ?. Easy to see the best of the Routeburn as a day trip. Especially if you're hiking fit & start early. Starting from The Divide end is probably best. There's a mini bus shuttle run that goes from Te Anau to Milford & back on a regular basis. They're pretty usueful. Personally, I'm reluctant to plan an itinerary for someone who has an air ticket but no plans on what to do here. Happy to comment on somebody's plans if I can be of help. You seem to have done some good planning. Hope this website proves helpful to you. I'll stick with my suggestion to leave some wiggle room in your planning. Easier to have a few extra options to fill time than to be scheduled to the hour and strike a bad weather delay.
When did an unmarked untracked challenging alpine route like 5 passes become part of a tourist bucket list like that? Really worries me ... not so much in your case if your assessment of your skills/experience is accurate. But it's turning up over and over in the same breath as Kepler, Routeburn or Te Araroa. Whereas they are straight forward walks suitable for any beginner or tourist fresh off the plane, 5 passes is a challenging alpine route needing good mapreading and routefinding skills and good weather. If this were a skifield the rest of your list would be the beginners slopes and 5 passes would be marked with a black diamond! That said, it's the only item on that list that I'd ever contemplate setting foot on at peak tourist season! The rest of those walks will take you into a variety of wonderful nz scenery ... but expect 30+ people a day (in 6 bunk huts on Te Araroa), and a company of people as kiwi as the Auckland Airport non-residents immigration queue. Mueller, Cascade, Routeburn, Kepler are all stunning alpine scenery but similar so for variety I'd drop one of those rather than the coastal QC or forested Richmond Ranges. Unless alpine is what you want in which case drop the QC trail. If you need to drop one.
Queen Charlotte can be mountain biked although I think that is only off season. Even so it gives an idea of the terrain. Hardly alpine travel. Some of the waves through the Cook straight on the ferry will be higher.
Thanks for the input madpom, I hear you about the crowds- not my preference either but those are just the dates I have available. Having spent a fair bit of time in the National Parks of the US, I am not super deterred by crowds but I imagine I will be happy to have my own tent. I don't mind being around people as long as they are treating the land and locals with respect. Yes the list is a bit of a tourist bucket list but considering I wont have a vehicle, I thought that getting hitches would be easier sticking to popular trailheads. From what I've read, the Five Passes sounds totally within my skill level, I spend most of my time off-trail and route-finding here in the US. I think I may drop one or more of the popular alpine routes and (weather permitting) add in Hollyford+Pyke Big Bay. Sounds like I'll just have to make another trip to NZ during the off season to enjoy some other less-crowded sides of the country.
You aren't hitchhiking out to Routeburn Shelter and getting around the 5 Passes plus the Routeburn in 6 days. There's no way to plan your hut booking(s) in advance when there are several places on the 5 Passes where rainfall will stop you from advancing. Unless your planning on freedom camping it... And you need at least 7 days to get around the Hollyford/Pyke so you'd have to drop a couple of things to do that. The Pyke is prone to flooding and will also stop you in your tracks if you strike any.
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