Awe Aspiring (Part One) – Rock of Ages

“On a Mish” #70 Awe Aspiring (Part One). Rock of Ages Bivouac. Mt Aspiring National Park. 15.3.2015. Both West and East Matukituki valleys are very impressive places to visit for a hike or climb and will not disappoint. The West Matukituki valley is far easier to access as a road makes its way into the mountains and to a car park and picnic area at Raspberry Flat. Once at the car park there are many options for long or short walks with easy hiking trails leading to both the Rob Roy Glacier or the brilliant Aspiring hut(27 Bunk). After adventures in the West Matukituki it was only going to be a matter of time before I set off on an outing up the much less visited East branch of the mighty river that flows from the mountains into Lake Wanaka…

The East Matukituki is a much different place than its busy neighbour, but that doesn’t mean it is any less spectacular. From the first steps it is a much more rugged affair as the Matukituki River needs to be crossed at the starting point at Cameron Flat, unless you add more time and distance by heading to a swing bridge further up the valley. The long valley and the other valleys that join it see far less visitors each year and are often very quiet, sometimes even empty of other humans. On the day I began my first wander up the east branch there was only me and the cows in the upper reaches of the Matukituki Station.

The area is grand, and the views are inspiring enough to keep you moving knowing there is so much more to see further up the valley.

At the head of the East Matukituki is Rabbit Pass(1400), which offers access to the remote and stunning Wilkin River via the tricky and sometimes deadly waterfall route. The multi-day tramp is popular with seasoned hikers and gives you some of the best mountain views in the country but demands respect and experience in order for you to survive to tell your tale.

When I visited the area it was a week after the gruelling ‘Godzone’ adventure race had been held in the valley, and the track was quite cut up and muddy from the amount of foot traffic. I really hope the competitors got a chance to take in the epic scenery while slogging it out in one of the most demanding races on the planet.

Running was the last thing on my mind when I crossed the refreshing waters of the Matukituki at Cameron Flat and made my way through the very scenic farmlands, before leaving any signs of humanity behind and heading into the bush edge at the Glacier Burn (river) crossing.

Day one couldn’t have had any better weather. The sky was totally free of clouds, and the sun was glowing warm above the beech trees which climbed upward towards the green tangle of foliage in the forest canopy. The rain from the last couple of days had left the place looking and feeling very much like the rainforest that it is.

At one point on my journey deeper into the valley the track crossed over an exposed mossy rock with the aid of a wire. The water flow was still strong from rain the previous night, so when combined with the slippery moss on the rock definitely kept me on my toes (literally). As I crept across the rock I imagined what this point would have been like during the race, as it was probably a real bottleneck and rushing would most likely end in injury. After the ‘wire of excitement’ I continued further into the valley, and the mountains continued to grow in size and grandeur.

I took a left hand turn upon reaching the Kitchener Valley Track at Junction Flat and this turned up the epicness with the best views seen so far. To continue up the East Matukituki to Rabbit Pass I would have needed to make my way around Bledisloe Gorge. Funny fact is they originally wanted to call it ‘Bloody Slow Gorge’ but the government didn’t accept the name, so it became the Bledisloe Gorge instead.

From here the track turned to the west towards the very eye-pleasing Aspiring Flat, which contains both the massive Turnbull Thomson Falls(370m) and above the equally impressive multi-layered cirque that is capped by the eastern reaches of the Bonar Glacier. About halfway up the valley is the ‘Rock of Ages’ which would be my home for the night, and with the weather allowing me to see everything I knew this was going to be an adventure that I was going to remember for ages!

Aspiring Flat

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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