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Going guided: Rabbit Pass traverse

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June 2020 Issue

This nerve-wracking trip in the isolated reaches of Mt Aspiring National Park requires experienced guiding.

A trip over the white knuckle Rabbit Pass isn’t for the faint of heart.

Described as New Zealand’s hardest guided trek, it’s the calibre of trip where experience really counts.

“For most clients, Rabbit Pass is at their very limit, so overcoming the challenge of the route gives our clients a tremendous sense of achievement,” Aspiring Guides’ Adam Cotterell says.

The classic four-day traverse links the Wilkin and East Matukituki valleys of Mt Aspiring National Park, encompassing true backcountry terrain; alpine meadows, beech forest, glaciated peaks, waterfalls and lakes. 

Guide Jessica Marriott says it’s popular for its sense of untouched isolation.

“It feels very remote and you can sometimes walk one or two days without seeing other people,” she says.

“Some people are also taken away with the abundance of clean freshwater that’s available to drink.”

Two technical sections have become renowned by trampers for their heart-in-mouth exposure – the Waterfall Face and Matukituki Descent Gully.

Lisa Tinkley completed the guided trip days before lockdown started, and was stoked to knock off the trip that was thwarted a decade earlier by bad weather.

“Having seen what Waterfall Face was like in slightly wet weather, we decided to do it with experienced guides,” she says. “I thought I could have done it on my own, but I think when you’re unsure about these things it pays to get that extra bit of experience.”

Raewyn Moss, who was on the same trip, says guides can remove elements of risk from tricky routes.

“They make you feel a whole lot more comfortable. I’m not a super anxious person, but guides remove that level of anxiety and make it doable, so you   can just enjoy it,” she says. 

“Another nice element is that it takes responsibility for us to be the leader out of the equation, and we can rely on someone else. While we may be capable, it’s nice not to have to make decisions.”

Aspiring Guides provides helicopter access into the Upper Wilkin Valley, as well as all food, camping and tramping equipment.

They also carry the majority of the gear and do the cooking.

“It just makes it easy,” Tinkley says. “It’s a long day going over the pass, and it saves you the energy to do climbing, as opposed to lugging a heavy pack,” she says. 

Where Mt Aspiring National Park
Who Aspiring Guides, www.aspiringguides.com
When Summer
Duration Four days
Price From $2950