Mt Aspiring National Park
Many trampers who are walking the popular Rees-Dart Track won’t have thought about the fact that they are circumnavigating the Forbes Mountains. One of the southern-most corners of Mt Aspiring National Park, the range offers a selection of options at a variety of levels.
1. Earnslaw Burn
Set between two long ridges that rise to Mt Earnslaw, the Earnslaw Burn is a great weekend trip culminating in a camp in alpine meadows below the imposing hanging Earnslaw Glacier. In good conditions, a return by the ridge overlooking the Rees River is a stunning option. A more demanding route over Lennox Pass goes to the Rees via Kea Basin.
2. Mt Earnslaw
Generations of alpine trampers and not-too-technical mountaineers are probably glad that, at 2830m, Earnslaw’s easier East Peak is 10m higher than its more challenging western neighbour. Usually climbed from Esquilant Bivvy on Wright Col, it’s probably one of the most frequently climbed peaks of its size in the South Island.
3. Kea Basin
A pleasant basin with great views and the choice of a superb rock bivvy or the 77-year-old Earnslaw Hut, Kea Basin makes a good destination for a short weekend trip. It’s also on the main route to Mt Earnslaw.
4. Clarke Slip
A 500m scramble from Slip Flat to the top of this old slip rewards the effort with superb views of the dress circle of peaks surrounding the head of Hunter Creek’s three branches.
5. Osonzac Twins
Named for the Otago Section of the NZ Alpine Club, whose members pioneered routes in much of this area in the 1930s, the Twins, particularly the eastern one, can be climbed without much technical difficulty from Clarke Slip.
6. Rees Saddle
Rather than race off to the next hut, Rees Saddle, the high point of the Rees-Dart Track, is a place to linger over a long lunch. A scramble up the slopes to the south rewards the more energetic with excellent views including, for those who make it to the ridge top at 2185m, a look down into Lochnagar in the Shotover.
7. Dart Hut
The third hut on this site, Dart Hut is the mid-point of the Rees-Dart. It’s also the junction with the increasingly popular route from the Matukituki Valley via Cascade Saddle. As many Rees-Dart trampers take an extra day to make a side-trip to Cascade Saddle, it can be a busy hut and a booking system is being implemented for peak times.
8. Cattle Flat
Although it’s far from being truly flat, Cattle Flat is the longest expanse of open country in the long journey down the Dart Valley. There’s a good rock bivvy in the bush about halfway down the flat, which makes a good option for people wanting to avoid the hustle and bustle of the huts.
9. Bedford Stream
A spectacular hanging valley at 1700m, Bedford Stream is drained by a slit gorge and is a feature of this valley, which provides a challenging and infrequently used route from Esquilant Bivvy to the Dart.
10. Chinaman’s Bluff
As well as being the end point for the Rees Dart, Chinaman’s Bluff offers a selection of rock climbing routes, ranging from single pitches starting at Grade 17 to the 10 pitch Grade 20 Ravages of Time route.