Rockburn to North Routeburn Traverse

Aspiring National Park, New Zealand

January 27 - 29, 2009

Dave Svilar and Jill


The bluest river in New Zealand.  The Rockburn reflects morning light off the surrounding peaks.

After returning from Sarah and Russell's wedding on the north island we hoped the weather would give us at least a couple of days before we checked into the condo in Queenstown.  The forecast called for three consecutive days of good weather, although the reality ended up being just under two.  We were looking for something with more challenge, something off the beaten path.  We hiked for about 15 minutes on a very beaten path, the Routeburn, then turned off where we met only two other hikers over the next 2.5 days.  We made an easy crossing of Sugarloaf Pass, walked up the Rockburn Valley - with its wondrously blue water - to Park Pass.  We took a side trip up to Poisedon Peak and the Park Pass Glacier, considered staying the night at Park Pass, but sensing a weather change decided to mush on.  Our camp the second night, at what I call Moir's Lakelet was perhaps the most beautiful place we saw in New Zealand.  Unfortunately the weather did blow in and we chose to return via the North Routeburn to the car.  We expected a decent track through the North Routeburn, but ended up bushwhacking and wading through the creek.  Not fun.  Even so, with the memory of the North Routeburn out of our minds this trip was eclipsed only by the Barrier Knob Traverse as the most satisfying trip while in NZ.  Enjoy the photos.

Jill crossing over Sugarloaf Pass.  Glenorgy and Lake Wakitipu can be seen in the distance.


Obligatory bridge crossing photo, this time over the Rockburn.


Dave just couldn't get enough blue river.  The entire hike up the Rockburn was very scenic and the bushwhacking minimal.  That's not a sunburn, just poor photo processing.


A scene of the blue river near where we camped in the flats.


As soon as we were in the shadow it got chilly.  No designated campsites here, just throw down wherever you want.  As soon as you get off the beaten path in New Zealand you can be very alone.  We had the entire valley to ourselves!


Does it ever warm up in New Zealand?  By the end of January (our equivalent of July) we expected it to be warm... at least once.  Jill's pack is frozen stiff outside our tent in the morning.


Our camp in the flats.  Jill hoping her hot drink and a little sunshine will warm her up.


Definitely not a Kiwi.  Dave prefers to remove his shoes on river crossings instead of suffering wet boot.


Nearing Park Pass the Rockburn Valley drops away behind us.


Jill reaches Park Pass, a fantastic area dotted with tarns and boulders with views toward my favorite peaks, the Darrans.


A view from the sidetrip to Park Pass Glacier.  At the time I took this photo I had no idea there was a helicopter in the middle of the frame (internet resolution too small to be seen).  Jill and I hadn't seen a soul for two days and were not expecting to see a tourist helicopter parked under this glacier.  New Zealand makes its money on people who pay for artificial adventure - tours, bungee jumps and such.  I just wish they would keep them in one spot like Milford Sound and Queenstown.


After Park Pass we hoped to camp at Lake Nerine, but luckily Jill was pooped so we stayed here at "Moir's Lakelet."  The landscape reminded me of the Enchantment Lakes and ended up being one of my favorite spots in New Zealand.  More time here would have been appreciated but the weather convinced us it was time to go back to the car the next morning.


Moir's Lakelet from a different perspective.  See if you can find our tent.


Stopping for a quick photo above Lake Nerine.


We continued on cross-country to the North Col.  This was the last view we had of the Darran Mountains before the cloud level dropped.


We had an unexpectedly miserable time in the North Routeburn, probably exacerbated by the rain.  Give us a condo!


Jill's all smiles, because the difficulties were over.  Survive one more cramped, smelly night in the back of the Scepter and we'd be checking into the condo.  As Jill would say, "one more sleep before the condo."

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Sarah and Russell on their wedding day near the Bay of Islands on the north island of New Zealand.  We enjoyed sunny skies and the perfect amount of beach time on our little sojourn to the north island.

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