Cloaked by ice and ridges, Mount Aspiring is one of New Zealand’s finest sights. The mountain is a classic horned peak, known as the ‘Matterhorn of the South’, and is renowned far and wide for it’s beauty and technical climbing. Whatever route you choose to take, Mount Aspiring is bound to be one of your best adventures yet. Here’s a comprehensive guide to climbing Mount Aspiring.
Over 355,000 hectares of luscious scenery entails Mount Aspiring National Park. From glaciated peaks to river valleys and rolling hills, there’s a jaw-dropping array of different landscapes to experience. Mount Aspiring is the tallest mountain within the national park, and it features a moderately sized peak with three distinct knife-edge ridges.
The Maori name for the mountain is Tititia or ‘Glittering Peak’. The summits of New Zealand’s mountains are considered sacred by Maori’s, as it’s believed that the sons of Raki, the sky father, turned to stone and became them.
How to get there
Walking access to Mount Aspiring is from Wanaka, so your best bet is to make your way there. Wanaka hosts the closest major airport to Mount Aspiring, so you can also opt to fly in. There’s also the option of taking the bus from Christchurch to Queenstown, and then jumping on the local bus to take you all the way to Wanaka.
From Wanaka, you can walk up to Matukituki Valley and stay at Mt. Aspiring Hut, a charming historic stone hut that provides a cozy overnight stop for families or those who are taking it slowly.
From the hut, there are two routes that lead further up the track: French Ridge Hut and Bevan Col, which then leads to Colin Todd Hut. It’s common for climbers to use a helicopter to fly to Bevan Col before walking across the glistening Bonar Glacier to Colin Todd Hut. From here, the mountain can be climbed via the Northwest Ridge. Walking in from Wanaka requires a full day and while the sights of grassy flats and beech forest is well worth it, the climb is not for the faint hearted.
The ascent from Colin Todd Hut along the Northwest Ridge sees an elevation gain of 1,300 metres. It can be done in one long and dedicated day, and is the easier of the two summit routes. Rated a New Zealand 2, it’s the most common route taken as it requires a milder set of fitness skills than the Southwest Ridge route.
There are two ways to climb the Northwest Ridge: you can take the Ramp, a 40 degree snow slope or the Shipowner Ridge, an elevation made of mixed rock and snow.
More experienced climbers will find adventure with Southwest Ridge, a steep ascent which requires a full set of mountaineering equipment. This route is rated a New Zealand 3, and is only suitable for those with a good level of fitness.
After the climb, there is a descent of 1400m back out to the road which some find as challenging as the actual climb.
Camping is also allowed with no fees, making it an accessible outdoor getaway for any budget .
When to climb
While you can climb Mount Aspiring all year round, November to March is the main climbing season. Winter climbers are susceptible to avalanche danger and snowy ridges, but for the thrill-seeker, it offers one of New Zealand’s most unique experiences.
For those looking to enjoy a guided tour, there are a myriad of renowned companies that guide climbers through Mt. Aspiring National Park, such as Queenstown Mountain Guides and Aspiring Guides. Guided tours are generally five days long, ensuring the best possible chance of reaching the peak.
The guides offer all equipment necessary including helmets, harnesses, crampons, ice-axes and outdoor clothing and boots. Aspiring Guides also offers Mount Aspiring training weekends for those looking to brush up on their fitness and endurance prior to their climb.