Rabbit Pass Tramp – Day 5 – Gillespie pass

After spending a day in the hut in torrential rain the weather had cleared. We headed off early in the morning towards Gillespie Pass, but then took a short detour across the valley where we dropped our packs and headed up to Crucible Lake. It was well worth the 600 m climb. The lake was filled with icebergs and two inquisitive keas joined us as we arrived.

Above: There were two very friendly keas at the lake.

Above: I was able to sit about 10 cm away from this fellow.

Above: I went for an adventure out onto the ice.

We then headed back down to the valley, collected our packs and walked over Gillespie Pass and down to the Young Hut. We had a quick 2 minute noodle cook up at the full hut and headed further down the valley to the Young Campsite where we camped the night by the river.

Kea 6 (Rabbit Pass Tramp Dec 2014)Crucible Lake 2 (Rabbit Pass Tramp Dec 2014)

Above left: On New Year’s Day we headed up to Crucible Lake in the morning and was greeted by this guy at the top. Above right: We were also greeted by this awesome view of the lake. The icebergs were bobbing happily in the water. I tried my luck and floated on one for a bit avoiding falling into the cold water.

Near Gillespie Pass (Rabbit Pass Tramp Dec 2014)

Above: We headed down from the Crucible Lake and up to Gillespie Pass stopping somewhere along the way for lunch. Then we descended steeply into the south branch of the Young River before walking out to the Young Hut.

Above: After five days tramping I was still carrying fresh food.

Leonie and Cris at Young Hut 2 (Rabbit Pass Tramp Dec 2014)Flowing stream 3 (Rabbit Pass Tramp Dec 2014)

Above left: Young Hut was full when we arrived so we sat on the deck and cooked up a quick two-minute noodle feast before heading further down the valley to the Young Forks Campsite, where we pitched our tents by the river for the night. Above right: New Zealand is very pretty.

And the map, at least the bit from Crucible Lake to the Young Forks Campsite. Despite what it looks like, we didn’t jump across the lake when we left. Apparently my GPS did though…

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Rabbit Pass Tramp – Day 3 – Siberia Hut

Leonie, Gina, and I split off from the rest of the group and left Top Forks Hut in the morning. It was a bit overcast as we headed down the river towards Kerin Forks Hut. We hid inside once we arrived and tried to avoid the sand flies, but each time the door was opened they would eagerly fly in.

After a hot chocolate energy-refuel we had a stomach-level river crossing of the Wilkin and continued on to Siberia Hut. It was cold and wet by the time we arrived so the hut with smoke rising from the chimney was a welcome sight.

Leonie outside Kerin Forks Hut (Rabbit Pass Tramp Dec 2014)

Above: Leonie risking her bare legs outside Kerin Forks Hut.

Rabbit Pass Tramp – Day 2 – Rabbit Pass

We packed up and set off at 7:30 in the morning with good weather. We warmed up with a walk up the valley towards Rabbit Pass before we started a slow ascent out of the river bed following the orange route markers. The route was steep and the going was slow. We stopped a couple of times to munch on bars and catch our breath. Eventually, we left the tussocks and started climbing a steep rocky section towards the ridge. There were big slabby rocks sitting on scree that moved disconcertingly as you stood on them. We had our helmets on though so surely that would make things safe? Gina didn’t have her helmet so naturally went last… allowing us to push rocks down on her… Ooops.

Anyway, after some careful foot work we all made it safely to the ridge. By this point we were above the pass so we walked along the ridge descending slightly to a spot for lunch. This was followed by a couple of kilometres walking along the flat pass with larger mountains on either side. The pass would make a nice place to camp if you had the right weather with plenty of grassy patches.

After the first ascent to above Rabbit Pass (Rabbit Pass Tramp Dec 2014)Gina, Leonie, and Cris (Rabbit Pass Tramp Dec 2014)

Above left: We had some loose rocks to contend with on the way up Rabbit Pass but we all made it to the top safely. Leonie is bleeding only slightly. Above right: We did some posing before dropping down to the pass proper.


Above: We left Ruth Flat in the morning and picked our way up a river on the true left before heading further to our right and coming out above Rabbit Pass. We then walked over to the flat 2 km long-ish pass.

After a little while we arrived at the waterfall and crux for the day. The river drops down a 90m drop followed by another 35 m waterfall and the route descends 200 m from a higher point to the true left of the river. We stopped before the descent and surveyed the route from the edge. It was extremely exposed. The descent begins with a sidle/climb across very steep terrain. A wrong foot would lead to a roll down a very run-out slope to the edge of the cliff before a fall to its base. It would be a freak accident if you survived.

With this in mind Kieran climbed down to the first route-pole and took a look at the rest of the descent. He climbed back and reported that he thought the first bit was the crux. Gina and pack set off followed by the others and they gingerly climbed down to the next route marker. Leonie and I started both with packs on but I soon decided it would be better if I headed down first and that Leonie climb without her pack. The first few moves were like a very easy rock climbing route albeit with a mix of dubious snow grass hand holds and the occasional rock that may or may not be well attached. If the exposure hadn’t been there you wouldn’t think twice about it however with the thought of slipping to certain doom it made you focus on each foothold and handhold.

I dumped my pack at the next marker and went back up to Leonie who had started climbing again without her pack. She made it down to where the others were waiting with Gina who met us halfway along and I went back to the top and collected her pack.

We then spent another hour or so clambering down to the bottom on a mix of rock and grass. It was generally less exposed however you still wouldn’t want to slip with a high chance of breaking something (or things) if you did.

Leonie did a very good job of getting down although clearly wasn’t that happy about the descent… but then I don’t think anyone enjoyed it.

Leonie descending on a steep bit (Rabbit Pass Tramp Dec 2014)Leonie descends from Rabbit Pass (Tramping Wilkin Young Dec 2014)

Above left: After some scouting out the route we descended the horribly exposed Rabbit Pass. If you slipped due to a wrong footing or a dodgy handhold you’d certainly fall to your death. This is the waterfall section. The other side of the pass is much tamer. Most people go up here because it’s easier… Above right: Leonie did an excellent job picking her way across the steepest most exposed section to begin with until she got to the more gentle slopes shown here.


Due to the exposure, the route should definitely not be attempted if the grass is at all wet… this would be plain stupid.

From the bottom we spent another few hours walking down to Top Forks hut where we camped the night. The hut was full so we lazed outside on the grass and cooked some of the ridiculous fresh vegies I was still carrying.


Above: The descent was very steep. The first part was extremely exposed, which unfortunately also means that I don’t have any videos or photos of it.

Above: After a stop at the first marker pole we continued descending on a milder slope.

Above: It wasn’t super easy going though.

Above: You’d probably survive a fall here! Probably…

Nearing Top Forks Hut (Rabbit Pass Tramp Dec 2014)
Above: We arrived at Top Forks Hut in the evening and cooked dinner outside on the grass.

Here’s what the map looked like:

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Rabbit Pass Tramp – Day 1 – Ruth Flat

Gina, Leonie, and I had driven down to Wanaka after Leonie and I had decided to join Gina and her pals on a modified not-so-Ivory-Lake trip. Actually it was an absolutely no Ivory Lake. We had made a delicious curry for dinner by lake Wanaka and camped the night Cameron’s Flat to the South of Ruth Flat.

In the morning, Gina drove back out to Wanaka and headed off to drop her car off at the other road end while Leonie and I trekked off in towards Ruth Flat. The weather was perfect. Nice and warm but calm. We crossed a very cold river to begin with and wandered through farmers’ paddocks before entering native forest and following a track on the true right of the Matukituki. It was quite happy and flat and we walked until lunch time just before arriving at Junction Flat. We played on the swing bridges and admired the views up to the snow covered peaks before following the track steeply upwards.

Of course we had packed extremely poorly and our packs weighed a ton (or a tonne if you prefer, but in both cases two much). I think the last time my pack weighed so much was in Slovenia with Chris and Emily and two cabbages – inspired by Gina. At our hasty Countdown shop before we met Gina we had failed to find much in the way of dried goodies and had instead bought lots of fresh heavy vegies and fruit. We began to wish we hadn’t. We sweated our way up and down through the bush for over 6 hours. The track was well maintained but had a horrible tendency to go up and down and with heavy packs it was very strenuous.

We vowed to cook as much fresh stuff as possible for dinner. Finally we arrived at Ruth Flat. We washed, pitched the tent, and cooked up a delicious rice and fresh vegie feast – wish worryingly didn’t put much of a dent in our fresh supplies. Gina and the rest of the party turned up about 1.5 hours later having taken something like 7.5 hours much faster than our 11… Of course, they didn’t seem to be carrying the entire contents of a small road-side dairy on their backs.

Setting off (Rabbit Pass Tramp Dec 2014)Crossing a waterfall 2 (Rabbit Pass Tramp Dec 2014)

Above left: We headed off early in the morning into Ruth Flat, while Gina drove off to meet the others and drop her car at the far end of the tramp. Above right: We had a waterfall to navigate on the way.

Crossing a wire bridge 3 (Rabbit Pass Tramp Dec 2014)Tents at night 2 (Rabbit Pass Tramp Dec 2014)

Above left: And two wire bridges. Although we could have avoided using them but they looked like so much fun. Above right: We met the rest of the team in the evening and camped at Ruth Flat.

My version of Lightroom doesn’t like my new camera’s raw format so you’ll have to put up with underexposed pictures until Lightroom 6 comes out…

And here’s a map:

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Seakayaking Abel Tasman Dec 2014

After our tramp around Mt Arthur area we cruised back to the coast and stayed the night at Old Mac Donald’s farm before setting off on the 23rd for some seakayaking fun from Marahau.

The conditions were perfect when we left – Nice and sunny and warm and most importantly very little wind. We cruised around Fisherman and Adele Islands, stopping at Te Puketia later before heading up to Mosquito Bay in the evening. We made dinner there and then went for another evening cruise up to Tonga Island. The stars were out to impress in the evening and snapped away merrily.

We headed off from Mosquito Bay early the next day and headed North for another loop around Tonga Island before heading back South. No wind and nice and still to start with. A northerly got up later and pushed us back to Marahau. We had a stop at Te Puketia and cruised around Adele Island again before having lunch at Apple Tree Bay.

Then it was a drive in the evening to the Lake Daniels campsite where we pitched a tent for the night.

Following a seal (Seakayaking Abel Tasman Dec 2014)Bellbird looking for nectar (Seakayaking Abel Tasman Dec 2014)

Above left: Leonie and I went seakayaking for a couple of days in the Abel Tasman National Park. We set off from Marahau, kayaked up to Mosquito Bay and returned the next day. There was some investigation of the islands and beaches along the way including two circumnavigations of Tonga Island. Above right: We stopped at Te Puketia on the way into the park and on the way out because it’s such a nice bay.

Leonie goes paddling (Seakayaking Abel Tasman Dec 2014)Leonie at Mosquito Bay (Seakayaking Abel Tasman Dec 2014)

Above left: Leonie did some modelling in her bikini (with silly hat). Above right: We camped at Mosquito Bay in the evening. As you can see the weather really was fantastic.

Awesome stars at Mosquito Bay (Seakayaking Abel Tasman Dec 2014)The kayak at Te Puketia (Seakayaking Abel Tasman Dec 2014)

Above left: And the stars in the evening weren’t too shabby either. Above right: We were given a standard multi-day tub. Nice and sturdy… and slow…