Mt Cook and Gillespie Pass
We think this could possibly be the best New Zealand mountain hike you won't find in any guide book. New Zealand's incredible landscapes are emphasised on this backcountry adventure where you will trek along mountain ridgelines, past high altitude lakes and near glaciers that spill down into majestic valleys of green and crisscrossing rivers. This is the stuff of Lord of the Rings as our small group hikes from New Zealand's highest peak, Aoraki/ Mt Cook (3,724 metres), to the Southern Alps and trails few venture on. This is NZ at its' best!
Who is this trip for?
Those who love mountain treks and mountain landscapes.
Those who enjoy roughing it a little by staying in mountain cabins.
Those who don't mind carrying their own pack (total weight 10-13kg) for a few days and some food provisions for the group.
Those who enjoy pushing themselves a little to gain access to wonderful landscapes and views.
Who is this trip not for?
Those who do not like roughing it (if you need a hot shower every night this trip probably isn't for you).
Those who don't have an above-average fitness.
Those who don't really enjoy being in the outdoors for too long.
- Trek to the base of New Zealand's highest peak Aoraki/ Mt Cook (3,724 metres)
- Experience the silence of mountain life as we go deep into the New Zealand high country
- Take on the Gillespie Pass trail surrounded by sublime landscapes
- Fully guided and escorted by qualified guides
- Jet boat down to Makarora
- Optional heli trek on the immense Tasman Glacier
There is a special silence one experiences when in the company of remote, giant mountains. It is nature at its' purest and you will be part of this incredible scene as we venture from Mt Aoraki, New Zealand's' highest peak, to the Southern Alps and the Gillespie Pass trail.
Our adventure begins in wonderful Christchurch. From there we head south toward Mt Aoraki / Mt Cook. However, before reaching our accommodation we will do a short walk up Mt John for our first awesome view of the mountain range. From there we will arrive in Mount Cook Village where our accommodation will have incredible views of Mt Cook and its' companion mountains. You can't get much closer to the mountains than this.
For the next couple of days, we will trek through these valleys and up onto the Mueller Ridge, the closest you can get to Mt Cook without climbing it. There is also a chance to do some heli trekking on the Tasman Glacier.
From Mt Cook, we head into the Southern Alps for a 4-day hike over Gillespie Pass. This is a demanding trek but one well worth the effort as we traverse through the picturesque and dramatic ecosystems, from temperate forests into mountain grasslands. We will take our time however as a place like this needs to be savoured. Your journey will also take in Lake Crucible before a jetboat ride back to Queenstown, on the shores lake Wakatipu.
Our Mt Cook Gillepsie Pass trek is for those that love the outdoors, long for mountain landscapes, enjoy walking with like-minded adventurers and don't mind helping out with a spot of cooking along the way. This is an incredible journey into an area of New Zealand you may never have heard about.
Day 1: Arrive in Christchurch and transfer to hotel. (D)
Day 2: Transfer to Mt Cook National Park 1.5 hours hike (B, L, D)
Day 3: Mt Cook 6-8 km, 6 hours hiking (B, L, D)
Day 4: Mt Cook – Makarora 4 km, 2 hours hiking (B, L, D)
Day 5: Makarora – Young Hut 20 km, 7 hours hiking (B, L)
Day 6: Young Hut – Siberia Hut via Gillespie Pass12 km, 7 hours hiking (B,L,D)
Day 7: Lake Crucible 13 km, 4 hours hiking (B, L, D)
Day 8: Siberia Hut – Jetboat to Queenstown 7 km, 2-3 hours hiking (B, L)
Day 9: Homeward bound. (B)
Guides and Safety
An excellent guide can make the difference between a trip of a lifetime and just an ordinary trip. Our handpicked professionals come from a range of backgrounds. Each has extensive outdoor and hiking experience and a passion for New Zealand’s wild and beautiful backcountry. The guide will ensure that your trip is truly inspiring, a huge amount of fun and safe. All guides are trained in Mountain Safety First Aid.
Day 1 Arrive in Christchurch and transfer to your hotel.
Check into our hotel and then dinner and briefing about your adventure. Includes dinner. (D).
Day 2 Christchurch – Mt Cook National Park National Park 1.5 hours hiking
We depart from our hotel at around 8.00 am and commence our drive south to Lake Tekapo, famous for its stunning turquoise waters and the quaint Church of the Good Shepherd. On arriving at Lake Tekapo we will hike up through wilding conifers and tussock grasslands to the summit of Mt John and revel in the 360-degree views of the Patagonia-like landscape. The sweeping Mackenzie Basin is a sparsely populated region with tawny-brown drylands, braided riverbeds and startling glacial lakes extending to the horizon.
We arrive at Mt Cook Village in the late afternoon and then relax and enjoy breath-taking views of New Zealand's highest mountain, Aoraki/ Mt Cook (3,724 metres). Here we will spend the next two nights in the heart of the Southern Alps surrounded by that special kind of silence that only big mountains can command.
Tonight we will overnight in a very cozy mountain lodge. (B.L,D).
Day 3 Mt Cook 6-8 km/6 hours hiking
Today we will hike to Sealy Tarns and onto Mueller Ridge. Just when you think you have taken the most impressive photo possible of the Hooker Valley and Mt Cook Range you will be rewarded with the mirror reflections of the peaks in the glorious Sealy Tarns. Take some time to rest at the tarns and absorb the impressive peaks and valleys. From the tarns, we then hike steeply onto Mueller Ridge. From here the vista encompasses the Mueller Glacier and Mt Sefton. As we return to the village by the same route we will meet up again with anyone who stayed on at the tarns, for the descent.
There is time in the afternoon to visit the Information Centre. This is a great place to be inspired by the courageous stories of pioneering mountaineers and to learn about the park’s natural history.
Overnight in the same cozy mountain lodge. (B,L,D)
Optional Heli Hike on the Tasman Glacier, price $620 per person. Trip duration of 3-4 hours, weather dependent. It is possible for some guests to join this heli hike then complete the Sealy tarns hike in the afternoon.
Day 4 Mt Cook – Makarora 4 km/2 hours hiking
After breakfast, we hike steep glacial moraines to the Red Tarns, so named for the colour of their pond-weed. The vegetation changes as we climb from the valley floor to a superb panoramic viewpoint of the valleys below, the village and Aoraki/Mount Cook. On our return to the village, we will drive to Wanaka following the Mackenzie country south before climbing over the tussock lands of the Lindis Pass into the southern lakes district.
Wanaka is a lovely holiday town on the lake-side where will have time for a walk around the town or have a coffee as the guide restocks for the next few days. It is then just a short drive to Makarora at the head of Lake Wanaka. Tonight, we will sleep in cabins at Makarora, beside Mount Aspiring National Park. We have a big day tomorrow, so have a night off cooking and eat dinner and play a game of pool in classic West Coast style at the adjacent pub before heading back to your cabin to pack for the multi-day hike.
The cabins are right on the lake with great views of the surrounding landscape. (B, L)
Day 5 Makarora – Young Hut 20 km/7 hours hiking
Once across the Makarora River, we follow the Young River. The Young Valley is a wonderland of dense native forest and high peaks. The trail steepens and climbs steadily to the tree line. The track climbs steeply for 100m and then sidles through a series of unstable slips to reach Stag Creek. From here, it’s a steady climb to Young Hut.
Tonight we will be staying in a basic mountain hut. (B,L,D)
Day 6 Young Hut – Siberia Hut via Gillespie Pass 12 km/7 hours hiking
After a short forest walk, we will come out into a spectacular vista of Mt Awful. Don't let the name fool you as the view is far from awful. This is really an alpine paradise with towering mountains as our backdrop. The track climbs steeply alongside a rock bluff onto a snow grass spur that after 3 to 4 hours, leads to the pass. The final 90 minutes or so is a little scrambly but the climbing ends at Gillespie Pass and one of the great viewpoints of the Southern Alps. From here there's an impressive view, with Mount Alba dominating the skyline.
The track descends steeply before sidling down through a series of snow grass basins. The track leads down to Gillespie Stream before descending in a series of zigzags to Siberia Stream. From the Siberia Stream, it is an hour to Siberia Hut.
Tonight we will be staying in the cozy yet basic Siberia Hut. (B,L,D)
Day 7 Lake Crucible 13 km/4 hours hiking
Set at 1172m, high above Siberia Valley, nestled under Mount Alba, is Lake Crucible, an excellent day trip from Siberia Hut. We may have a little sleep in today before heading out, hiking up the valley flats to Crucible Stream, where the track climbs a narrow spur, crossing a river, before coming out on a snow grass flat. The Crucible Basin is home to fragile alpine herb fields. Keep an eye out for little rock wrens that call this area home. This day hike also allows us to use the day to cross the pass in case we are unable to cross the pass the day before due to poor weather.
Tonight we will be staying in the cozy yet basic Siberia Hut. (B,L,D)
Day 8 Siberia Hut – Queenstown 7 km/2-3 hours hiking
Today we head down the valley - sidling above the Siberia River. We gain spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and waterfalls of the lower Siberia Valley. A jetboat will pick us up at the confluence of the Siberia and Wilkin valleys, on the Wilkins river and carry us on a thrilling 45-minute journey downstream to Makarora.
Tonight we are back in Queenstown and a wonderful hotel and hot shower. (B,L)
Day 9 Home
- Seven days guided trek with an experienced guide
- All accommodation including nights before and after the expedition in Christchurch and Queenstown
- All breakfast, lunches and dinners as per itinerary (B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner)
- Jetboat transfer
- All transfers
- Personal souvenirs
- Meals not outlined in the itinerary
Tasman Glacier Heli Hike
Take a walk on the Tasman Glacier[...]