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
I`d echo Madpoms & Yarmoss comments on the Hollyford/Pyke & 5 Pass trip;heavy weather will be a stopper.We don`t have critters that eat you but the weather is far & away very fickle compared with the USA or Europe,which tend to be more stable & predictable.Take a beacon & attach yourself to another tramper or party,especially on the off the track,grunty stuff.Expect 4 seasons even in summer.Don`t finish your tramp in a body bag.Enjoy!
My 2 cents: Ambitious! As others have iterated, the weather is the great unknown in NZ. The best laid plans can go out the window with inclement weather; e.g. stream/river crossings. Echoing others, NZ weather is much more variable than the continental weather patterns in the States. Any forecast outside of 3 days can be considered nearly worthless. You've got a couple of timetables listed that catch my attention: Pelorus Bridge through to St. Arnaud via Richmond Ranges/Red Hills in 6 days; Waiau Pass via St. Arnaud to Boyle Village (my assumption) in 6 days; and as others have mentioned, Routeburn/5 Passes in 5-6 days. I went on tramping holidays in '06 and '07 before moving to NZ in '08. I had @ 1 month on each holiday. Although I hit most all my itinerary, the logistics of getting off one track and onto another was full on. Hitching is great, but sometimes you may be in the middle of nowhere with no one. I found that by doing less I experienced more. By planning 2-3 epics, you can spend most of your time enjoying the wilderness rather than rushing to the track's end and sticking your thumb out, trying to reach your next destination. Once you're on the track, stay on the track. I know all of our fitness levels vary, but after an epic I need a day of doing as little as possible to rest/recuperate. I know you've built in a couple of rest days in your itinerary, but even the hustle and bustle of hitching/bussing to your next jump off point can be taxing. I think if you managed to tramp across the Richmond Ranges, Nelson Lakes/St. James (Waiau), and Routeburn/5 Passes within a month that in itself would be an awesome adventure and you wouldn't be "missing out". We're not going anywhere, so it's conceivable you could visit NZ again and explore even more.
Schedule does sounds tight, sounds rushed to me. Keep in mind that you cannot rely on hitching, and weather really can hinder this...and the south island is wetter than the north. I do think people exaggerate the conditions in New Zealand, in my 5000kms of hiking in a few different countries, the only thing that is unique to New Zealand conditions is the high UV damage from the sun, and the lack of bridges over potentially difficult waterways. The only other thing I would say is that there is a huge different between something like the Routeburn, which I could comfortable complete in about 8 hours, to a 'tramping track', which might not even be benched. Some tracks might require 5-10 fords a day, perhaps more.
i've been tramping in NZ for 40 years, i've seen a lot of bad weather, and i'm very wary of the weather in the mountains, i still get unpleasant scary surprises, when i think i know what to expect.. wind thats impossible to stand up straight in. the heaviest rain anywhere, rapid, major deterioration in conditions that werent as forecast. ran that flash freezes on you the forecasts are just educated guesswork, and they can be very wrong... the storms have been getting worse over the decades. so i'm more wary than ever. no two years may be alike at all. the weather patterns can vary massiveley for a given season, one summer can be completely different to another summer, if you've only been in the country a few years you still haven't seen what the weather can do.. the temperatures may not be as cold as a lot of places in the world but the sheeer dampness you often get exacerbates cooler temps here it conductes the heat out of you faster and the wind can be quite relentless. a canadian commented, the coldest he'd ever fest was when he was in NZ
....and they're off and racing....😁
It's interesting that mountains in New Zealand are like mountains all over the world, unpredictable and capable of creating their own weather. They even get cold, windy and wet like other mountains.
heres a journal on the pacific crest trail more fine weather in a season than you'd get in several years in NZ https://roamingwildrosie.com/category/adventures/pacific-crest-trail-4200-km/
Again, and for like the 4th time, everyone and their brother knows the PCT has incredibly dry weather for 70% of it's distance. The PCT is very dry - correct. I'm not sure what that has to do with anything in New Zealand.
Just a heads up ‘topher’ since you’re new here... No matter what is discussed on here eventually someone appears to explain that New Zealand is different from every other country and that no amount of overseas experience can adequately prepare you for the horrors that await in this country. I would strongly suggest not relying on this site to gain a fair perspective on the conditions here due to this ‘feature’. I would recommend reading trail journals and contacting people directly. Do not discount your own experience however the sun and river fords here can create challenges you ‘may’ not be used to dealing with. Then again, you may be fine with those conditions. It’s an amazing place to explore and enjoy, have a great time.
but @jmeyer, everyone knows if you are not from NZ the only track you have ever walked is the PCT and thus you must assume every other place in the world has identical weather. On a more serious note, @topher if you are fit and everything falls your way in terms of transport then what you have posited is theoretically possible. Heck, it is possible to do, and I have done, some of tracks you have mentioned quicker than the times you have quoted. However, the problem will become where theory and reality start to diverge. There will almost certainly be times where weather and hitchhiking do not allow reality to meet theory and the proposed itinerary allows next to no leeway for these occurrences. As to the weather — commonsense is key. Look at forecasts but do not be a slave to them. React to the conditions around you and be prepared to change your plans if and when you need to. Make sure you investigate bail out options for the longer trips. Don't be afraid to back track or stay put if conditions do not allow you to push on. I will not comment on hitchhiking as I have never used it as a prolonged method of travelling so don't have anything useful to contribute. Below is my experiences from your list: 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) — easily doable. We walked this as a family in this amount of time and that included under 10 year olds and my grandfather at 80+. The actually walking can be done in 2 days if you really want to, obviously travel times on ferry etc will push the overall times out by another half day or so. As over 20+ years ago, the track was very easy walking and well graded the whole way other than the first climb out of ship cove which was a bit more like a traditional NZ bush track. Not sure of changes in the last 20 years but will have only got easier. In terms of your overall trip this is very easy and will offer no challenges compared to anything else you have listed, also as weather independent as you will get. The coastal walking and to me at least almost tropical feel of the bush will offer a point of difference to your other tracks listed. hitch to Havelock, resupply, hitch to Pelorus Track Pelorus Track & Richmond Range w/ Red Hills alternate (6 days) — Again should be very achievable in this time frame — if the weather plays ball. Once you leave the Pelorus you will be on the tops so travel speeds and if you can travel at all will be dependent on conditions. I have walked a lot but not all of this section. Pelorus River is easy going on good tracks with bridges though always seems to take a bit longer than I expect for what appears to be a relatively flat river walk. I have gone as far as from Fell Hut to the end of the Pelorus track in a long day (though this was with a party member who was slower than me). This is obviously the opposite direction to your travel and thus was predominantly down hill so factor this in. Mt Fell Hut to Richmond Saddle Rd is easily less than a day for me. I assume yo uare going this way rather than the off-track bush bash from Richmond Saddle to Ada Flat? I have a gap in knowledge here with the only other part of the trip I have walked being From Lake Chalice to Old Man Hut along the tops. As of 15 years ago this has a rough ground trail and poles as marking. Easy day for that. hitch to St. Arnaud, meet friend with resupply, stay night in hostel on Xmas Waiu Pass Track (6 days) — lots of variations on how you can do this but 6 days should suffice if you are fit. It can take slower parties up to 10. We did Mt Robert Ridge, Sunset Saddle, night at Hopeless Hut, down to Travers Valley, then up to Cupola Hut for the night (very easy day), through Gunsight Pass to pick up Travers-Sabine track, Blue Lake Hut for the night, Waiau Pass, Lake Thompson, Thompson Pass, Upper Durville Pass, camp in East Branch Matakitaki just above the hut (long day 15+ hrs), down Matakitaki East and up Matakitaki West to head and over Three Tarn Pass, Ada Pass Hut for the night, out down St James. That trip involves a lot of off-track and good navigation skills. Can be much easier if you stick to the main tracks with Waiau Pass being the only "off-track" bit and that is still marked with warratahs. I love the Travers Valley and would 100% recommend including that if you could. Lake Angelus is nice and all the big passes offer great views. Note: On this section and the Richmond Range/Red Hills you are on Te Araroa and thus huts can be filled. Judging by you further itinerary you will be carrying a tent anyway 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) — no idea sorry! hitch to Wanaka, resupply, stay night in hostel hitch to Cascade Saddle Cascade Saddle + Dart Track (3 days) — no idea sorry! hitch to Queenstown, stay night in hostel, resupply, hitch to Routeburn shelter Five Passes Circuit + Routeburn track (5-6 days) — possible but aggressive. Routeburn will be two days. Not sure if this can be done in one long day by the super fit as I have not done it. However, I have done the Five Passes in three days as the mid summer evenings down south allow you to walk until 9pm plus in broad daylight. However, I do not recommend this as a three day option. We were shagged when we came out and I now feel we missed a lot of the enjoyment and instead of hurrying through could have slotted in more interesting side trips etc. For the sake of completeness the three days were broken up as Routeburn Shelter to camp in Hidden Falls Creek/Hidden Falls Creek to camp at Fohn Lakes/Fohn Lakes back to Routeburn Carpark. Epicly long final day though I must admit I felt worse after day two than day three. If you were to do this, then tack on the Routeburn I feel it may be a struggle in 5 days. Six is more possible but will still require some solid days. When I was through 15 years ago there was a reasonable ground trail developing a long the Five Passes route, which should only have improved, but it did require good navigation skills even in fine weather. Bus from Divide to Te Anau, resupply and stay night in hostel Kepler track (3 days/2 nights) — Only walked as far as Luxmore Hut earlier this year. Looks like it took about 3hrs to get to. Good tracks all the way to there but I believe things get a little rougher past there. Rest of the track: no idea sorry! Bus to Christchurch or Queenstown to fly home The other problem is that while in isolation a lot of the track times are feasible trying to chain them together will obviously add to the challenge. For example after going St Arnaud to Lewis Pass via Waiau I was pretty shagged and likewise after knocking out the Five Passes in three days. I am reasonably fit but if you were to say take those two trips, sandwich in Mueller, Cascade and Dart then finish off with Routeburn and Kepler all chained together I would give it a pass (now in my 20s I was probably sadistic enough say "bring it on"!). Personally, I would say pick three 5/6 day trips (or a couple of that length and 2 shorter ones) and give them a real good go and enjoy them while allowing some more leeway/rest days in between. I'd put Waiau Pass trip and Five Passes on the list and work some stuff in between. End of my overly long diatribe...
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