Where are you (park, forest, etc.)- Brewster Track Haast Pass, in Mt Aspiring National Park
Nearest town (s)- Makarora, Haast, Wanaka
How long is this hike- We did it as an overnight, but it can be combined with other areas to make it longer or done in a day.
Miles- It was only 2.7km, but it was steep—like straight up and down steep.
On your toughness scale (1 easiest, 10 toughest)-I’d give it a 5. It was really short, but steep, so it wasn’t exhausting, but very slow moving.
This tramp was the last activity of a 5 day trip to the West Coast of New Zealand. We hadn’t seen the sun yet, so we were thrilled when it was bright blue skies the morning of the tramp and got to the trailhead and began in our T-shirts. The trail started with a knee-deep river crossing, so my feet were wet from the beginning, but I was still hot. However, the trail goes up to a hut at 1400m and the previous night, they had gotten fresh snow! While this was exciting, it also meant that all the snow from the tree tops were melting and it literally felt like it was pouring rain on us for the entire time until we reached treeline. Oh well, at least is was warm. Once we got to treeline, the views were unreal. We were surrounded by snow-capped peaks in every direction, including Mt Brewster—the tallest peak in Haast Pass—and Mt Armstrong, which we hoped to climb the next morning. The snow was knee deep, but we didn’t care since our feet were wet anyway and it was warm and sunny! New Zealand has a really good backcountry hut system, so we finally got to our hut after only 2.5 hours and played around in the snow a bit, admiring the views, and relaxed in the hut. After watching the sunset and eating our spaghetti, we got into our sleeping bags. The sunset was incredible and I’d imagine the stars were too, but this hut didn’t have a wood stove like many do, so we weren’t willing to leave our bags to check stars.
Now the 6am alarm came early and it was cold, but perfectly clear skies. We were hoping to attempt to summit Mt Armstrong at 2175m. Our bags were comforting, but we both agreed we’d be kicking ourselves if we didn’t give it a go. Unsure what the conditions would be like, we set off into the snow, hoping to summit before the sun softened the snow too much. The moving was slow through the snow, but we were moving nonetheless, and then decided to scramble up the rocks to the top. It was a little sketchy as the rocks were icy, but we made it—to a false summit. So, after a little more walking and a little more climbing, we were nearly there! Just one last incline to the summit and the sun was just starting to peer over the mountains! Unfortunately, though, this last incline was a sheet of ice and without crampons or an ice-axe, we weren’t able to make it to the top, so we agreed, reluctantly, to stop about 500 feet short of the peak. The views here were still unbelievable and all we had now was a walk back down, which admittedly included sections of sliding as well! After lunch in the hut, it was back down to the car and home!
Would you recommend? (Yes or no) 10, It was amazing, but be aware, that it is steep and your joints hurt after coming down.
Tell us a little about yourself: I’m the self-appointed Chief of International Marketing for Father Nature Outdoors! Besides that, I’m a college student studying abroad in New Zealand and have had the fortunate opportunity to do many tramps around this beautiful country. I’ve also snowmachined through parts of Alaska, hiked and snorkeled in Hawaii, backpacked along the Continental Divide Trail, rafted part of the Colorado River, and biked the C&O canal trail. I love being outdoors!