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rubywrangler
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rubywrangler
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PostSat Jan 06, 2024 12:01 am 
At the end of November I had 4 weeks of vacation time that I needed to use or lose by end of the year, so I flew to Queenstown from Flagstaff (via DFW and AKL) a few days after hiking out of the Grand Canyon. I had spontaneously made reservations for the Tongariro Northern Circuit last summer after reading about it (long before I decided to actually go, because I misunderstood the cancellation policy clown.gif) and I got one night on the Kepler track from a cancellation. Otherwise I had no plans. I had been to the South Island in 2017 and had done the Routeburn track, Mueller hut and many of the other dayhikes and overnight hikes in the Lonely Planet "tramping" guidebook on a whirlwind roadtrip. This time I was hoping to stay in the Fiordlands/Mt Aspiring area and do some longer 3-5 day hikes. But December is the rainiest month of the year, so I knew weather would be a deciding factor in my itinerary. Well, the best weather window I got on the South Island was 2 days, so my long trips did not pan out. I still got in a lot of good hiking though smile.gif Dec 4-5 Kepler Track, Fiordlands NP I used a water taxi from Te Anau and hitched a ride back from the Rainbow Reach car park to cut out ~9.5 miles of flat forest hiking and make this Great Walk doable in two days. The first day was long (~14 miles, 5000' of gain) but most of the climbing is out of the way after the first couple hours so it's doable at a reasonable pace. I took the short side trip to Mt. Luxmore and spent an hour there being entertained by the views and the keas, and still made it to the Iris Burn hut by 4pm. Once above the bushline this is a nice long ridge walk with continuous views of Lake Te Anau and the surrounding peaks of Fiordlands. In addition to a nice waterfall, Iris burn hut has both kiwis (which I heard but didn't see) and glowworms (which I saw) in the vicinity.
kepler track views
kepler track views
new friend/pest
new friend/pest
kepler track pano
kepler track pano
iris burn
iris burn
moturau hut view
moturau hut view
Dec 7-8 Earnslaw Burn (burn = creek) I made this a loop by hiking in on the long ridge above Earnslaw burn to Lennox pass, then dropping down into the basin at the head of the burn and hiking out the Earnslaw burn track. This turned out to be a good choice because although the ridge only has a faint, intermittent path, it also has great views and is actually easier than the track, which has a lot of erosion and blowdowns. The only downsides are having to cross a very steep and slippery scree slope south of Lennox pass, and the fact that it's an almost 6000' day. There aren't a lot of campsites in the bumpy tussock so I headed for one I had read about in a blog, on a bench at the head of the basin. Very scenic spot below Mt Earnslaw and it's many waterfalls. In the morning I wasn't able to find a direct route down to the basin through the slippery tussock, so I traversed back south and descended the stream gully below Lennox pass, then hiked back up to the pretty basin. I stayed for a little while but left just in time to miss an incoming helicopter. Turns out you can skip the hiking and take a heli tour out here for just $510 NZD! I headed down the valley and picked up the Earnslaw burn track which lived up to it's bad reputation.
traffic jam
traffic jam
looking back to lake wakitipu
looking back to lake wakitipu
earnslaw & burn
earnslaw & burn
richardson mtns & tarns
richardson mtns & tarns
Snowdrift range & rees river
Snowdrift range & rees river
ridge ahead
ridge ahead
back on the ridge after the scree slope
back on the ridge after the scree slope
camp view
camp view
sunset on earnslaw
sunset on earnslaw
sunrise view
sunrise view
spectacular basin!!
spectacular basin!!
looking back upstream
looking back upstream
Dec 10-11 North Routeburn, Mt. Aspiring NP This was the big fail of my trip (although it was a scenic fail). Based on the forecast I thought I would have 2 days of decent weather, so I planned to do the "poor man's routeburn" clockwise and hike out in the rain on day 3: Routeburn track to the Routeburn flats hut, up the North Routeburn to Lake Nerine, cross-country from Lake Nerine to Park Pass, out the Rock Burn. With a side trip to the Park Pass Glacier lake which was my main interest. This was a shorter variation of a longer trip I wanted to do, the 5 passes route. But I didn't know if it would be possible to climb North Col at the head of the North Routeburn without an axe and crampons. And even if that was possible, I didn't know if I could make it to Lake Nerine in one day (most parties take 2 days). I still don't know if I could have climbed North Col; I didn't make it that far. And of course I didn't make it to Lake Nerine in one day. Water crossings and relentless brush in the upper North Routeburn slowed my pace to a crawl. I did make it to the head of the North Routeburn and got nice sunset views of Nereus peak. On Day 2 everything was socked in above North Col and I wasn't interested in a zero-visibility visit to Lake Nerine so I hiked out. In retrospect I probably should have just done an in-and-out to Park Pass Glacier lake, but I had to give the loop a shot. Oh well. Next time!
north routeburn from the flats hut
north routeburn from the flats hut
north routeburn tarn
north routeburn tarn
north col
north col
humboldt mtns
humboldt mtns
swamp
swamp
brushy boulders, so fun
brushy boulders, so fun
bootpath though the brush in this section
bootpath though the brush in this section
yuck
yuck
getting worse
getting worse
maybe this used to mark a trail, but not anymore
maybe this used to mark a trail, but not anymore
cross here (if possible) to climb to north col
cross here (if possible) to climb to north col
sunset on nereus
sunset on nereus
sunset on nereus
sunset on nereus
morning camp view
morning camp view
humboldt mtns
humboldt mtns
got out just in time
got out just in time
Dec 13-15 Gillespie Pass circuit, Mt. Aspiring NP Typically a 3-4 day trip that I squeezed into a 2.5 days due to weather. I used Wilkins River Jets on both ends to cut out river crossings and some miles. Day 1 was an easy hike up the Young River and the South fork Young to Young Hut, which I shared with a couple from SLC. I had my own room, which was unusual and nice. On Day 2 the route continues to Young basin and then climbs steeply to a saddle south of Gillespie pass with stunning views of Mt Awful and the surrounding area. Then it drops to Siberia creek. The descent is less steep overall but involves a lot of annoying and slippery root ladders. At Siberia creek I turned right and followed trail markers to the Lake Crucible track. This track climbs (more roots) 1000' in about 0.3 mile out of the Siberia Creek valley, then a long 2 miles at a more gentle grade up the valley to Lake Crucible. Definitely a worthwhile side trip, but probably better in the morning as far as photos go. I stayed for about an hour before retracing my steps back to Siberia creek and heading down the valley to Siberia hut. This hut has great views and a really nice waterfall nearby. Overnight the weather arrived, but it was only about an hour of hiking in the rain to the jetboat pickup spot.
makarora river
makarora river
young hut
young hut
young basin
young basin
ridge pano
ridge pano
mt awful
mt awful
awful roots
awful roots
mt dreadful
mt dreadful
crucible valley
crucible valley
crucible lake
crucible lake
wind pushed all the icebergs to the east side
wind pushed all the icebergs to the east side
cool cliffs
cool cliffs
weather is coming
weather is coming
siberia hut
siberia hut
siberia hut evening view
siberia hut evening view
siberia hut morning view
siberia hut morning view
our savior
our savior
Dec 16 Brewster hut, Mt. Armstrong, Brewster glacier, Mt Aspiring NP For my last good weather day on the South Island, I wanted to climb a peak. The lakes were a bonus. The Brewster track is very steep, but not bad compared to the Lake Crucible track! I cruised up past all the early birds cool.gif Mt Brewster was socked in when I got to Brewster hut but it momentarily cleared as I hiked above the hut - the only appearance of the day. I left the trail and climbed the northwest slope of Mt. Armstrong. It was straightforward with one easy cliff band to navigate (class 3). The last few hundred feet below the summit were mostly snow, with enough melted out rock to avoid it if you wanted. Views were cloudy and intermittent. I waited awhile for a clear view but it never materialized. I descended a slightly different route and picked up the trail to the glacier and lakes. This is a really spectacular spot, and I wish I would've camped there!
hut view
hut view
best view of brewster all day
best view of brewster all day
leaving the trail, mt armstrong summit in the left background
leaving the trail, mt armstrong summit in the left background
looking toward summit
looking toward summit
summit view
summit view
huxley range, probably
huxley range, probably
as good as it got
as good as it got
brewster glacier & lakes
brewster glacier & lakes
brewster lakes
brewster lakes
me time
me time
spot the tiny humans
spot the tiny humans
spot the tiny human checking out the nice campsite
spot the tiny human checking out the nice campsite
brewster hut from above
brewster hut from above
brewster track
brewster track
Dec 20-22 Tongariro Northern Circuit, Tongariro NP This is a loop around Mt Ngauruhoe (aka Mt Doom as LOTR fans know) and a portion of the loop is the (in)famous Tongariro alpine crossing - the most popular dayhike in New Zealand. Thousands of people hike it on a sunny summer day. Luckily(?) I hiked that section on an extremely windy day - and got a 5:45am start - so avoided the crowd. The volcanic landscape was a real shock to the system after the wet, green South Island. I spent one night at Mangatepopo hut and one night at Waihohonu hut, but Oturere hut (the middle one) has the best views.
pukekaikore & mt ngauruho
pukekaikore & mt ngauruho
sunset on taranaki from mangatepopo hut
sunset on taranaki from mangatepopo hut
starting up the tongariro crossing
starting up the tongariro crossing
cool clouds and light
cool clouds and light
first of many camo toilets
first of many camo toilets
stairway to the crater
stairway to the crater
south crater
south crater
red crater
red crater
blue lake
blue lake
emerald lakes
emerald lakes
looking back on descent route
looking back on descent route
lava flow
lava flow
ngauruhoe & red crater
ngauruhoe & red crater
oturere falls
oturere falls
en route to waihohonu hut
en route to waihohonu hut
en route to waihohonu hut
en route to waihohonu hut
ruapehu
ruapehu
upper tama lake
upper tama lake
taranaki falls
taranaki falls
Many more photos on flickr

HitTheTrail, mbravenboer, Theboywhocriedroute, electrichiking, Route Loser, Josh Journey, call-151, Eric Hansen, NWtrax, Bootpathguy, Bowregard, Get Out and Go, Now I Fly, zimmertr, shane w, Pef, Kascadia, yukon222, fffej50, jstern, raising3hikers, reststep, John Mac, Gimpilator, olderthanIusedtobe  jaysway, geyer, kite, awilsondc  The Ghost of Bear 380, Prosit, fourteen410, Snowdog, RichP
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olderthanIusedtobe
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olderthanIusedtobe
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PostSat Jan 06, 2024 1:19 am 
Wow! Awful and Dreadful don't look at all awful or dreadful to me. So many of these pics, I just kept thinking that scenery must've been in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

rubywrangler
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olderthanIusedtobe
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PostSat Jan 06, 2024 1:21 am 
Brewster Lakes look amazing.

fourteen410
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Snowdog
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Snowdog
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PostSat Jan 06, 2024 10:15 am 
Wow Rubywrangler! Great TR & great photos! Thank you for sharing. Makes me want to go back.

'we don't have time for a shortcut'

rubywrangler
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Prosit
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Prosit
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PostSat Jan 06, 2024 9:50 pm 
Fantastic, ... inspirational. Thanks for sharing!!

rubywrangler
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The Ghost of Bear 380
~SJ~



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The Ghost of Bear 380
~SJ~
PostSun Jan 07, 2024 11:03 am 
WOW!! So good! wub.gif

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Nancyann
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Nancyann
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PostSun Jan 07, 2024 11:39 am 
Thanks for taking the time to put together such an excellent trip report with so many details and fabulous pictures. I would love to go there someday, but in the meantime at least I can live vicariously through your adventures!

rubywrangler, Now I Fly
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Now I Fly
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Now I Fly
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PostSun Jan 07, 2024 5:58 pm 
A bit jealous, but mainly extremely thankful for your wonderful report! You bagged some wonderful memories, and once again I am left inspired. Thanks, B

rubywrangler
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rubywrangler
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rubywrangler
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PostSun Jan 07, 2024 7:06 pm 
Thank you everybody! Nolan, I think Mt Earnslaw was also in one of the movies, and Tongariro of course, but not sure about the others. There are many, many LOTR-themed tours on both islands, but I didn't do any of them.

olderthanIusedtobe
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Bootpathguy
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PostSun Jan 07, 2024 7:16 pm 
rubywrangler wrote:
spectacular basin!!
spectacular basin!!
up.gif up.gif up.gif biggrin.gif

Experience is what'cha get, when you get what'cha don't want
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Stefan
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PostMon Jan 08, 2024 11:16 am 
Yeah. Well. That makes a lot of us jealous!!! Great show!

Art is an adventure.
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shelby147
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PostThu Jan 18, 2024 5:20 pm 
Really nice photos! Now you make me want to visit New Zealand...

I hike in the desert outside of summer: https://hikearizona.com/dex2/profile.php?u=81887
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mbravenboer
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PostSun Jan 28, 2024 12:33 pm 
Stunning! I have been collecting New Zealand intel for a while for a future dream trip. This one goes into that folder too smile.gif . Thanks!

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HitTheTrail
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PostSun Jan 28, 2024 4:47 pm 
Brings back some very nice memories. Thanks for posting. My wife and I spent 2 weeks in the south island and 1 week in the north island. But our outdoor adventure was a bit limited since we had our 6 month old daughter with us! When we were driving up the Haast River we stopped in a small store and bumped into a guy we knew from the Middle East. Small world.

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