The weather in Wanaka looked pretty good, so we quickly packed our bags and set off towards Aspiring National park. The road from Wanaka passes through incredible scenery as it winds alongside the lakefront, Roy’s Peak car park was full as ever and we were excited to escape the crowds and head into the backcountry.
Our plan for the weekend was to wander through the Matukituki Valley to Aspiring hut and then begin the climb to Liverpool Hut which sits above the valley at 1,100m. A previous visit to Aspiring Hut had proved easy and a desire to explore further into the belly of the National Park inspired the plan.
After an hour on the road, we finally arrived at Raspberry Flat carpark from where we would start walking. Raindrops had begun to fall as we neared the carpark and dark, ominous skies became visible down the valley as we turned the final bend.
Not deterred by a bit of rain we pulled waterproofs from our bags and layered up. The following 10km to Aspiring Hut should have been easy. Little to no elevation gain and a well-marked farm track meanders through the valley along the course of the river. However, the rain persisted and the headwind blew with such force, it made walking in a straight line near impossible. By the time we reached Aspiring Hut, we were both soaking wet and ready for shelter.
After we had escaped the weather and warmed up with a brew, we decided that rather than continue with our mission to Liverpool Hut we would spend the night at Aspiring again. Winter had a tight grip on the big mountains further down the valley and the snow line was in sight. As much as I wanted to continue, sometimes you have to make a sensible decision and say no. The mountains (and Liverpool Hut) will still be there next time, as they say. So, with the majority of the afternoon and evening ahead of us we got comfy and settled in for a cosy afternoon enjoying the ‘great indoors’.
Aspiring Hut is a 33 bed, serviced hut at the entrance to the National Park. Many climbers and mountaineers stop here before continuing deeper into the hills the next day. In June, however, the hut is all but closed up for the winter. No warden, no water, and no gas. Just a very empty hut with an unlocked door. Thankfully there was still a stack of firewood piled up outside so I got the fire roaring and put another brew on.
We spent the afternoon reading the books and magazines that had been left behind by other parties and drinking copious amounts of tea. The weather didn’t ease and by 4 o’clock the light was beginning to wain. Was I happy about our decision? As I sat by the fire with a warm cup in hand, I was content.
For the rest of the afternoon, the hut was ours exclusively. We read until we fell asleep and then napped until the rain and wind shook us awake again. All in all, an enjoyable afternoon doing very little. And when the time eventually came to go to sleep, we had no problems drifting off. The comforting warmth emanating from the fire combined with a couple of drabs of whiskey saw to that.
The following morning we woke to clearer skies. After a quick breakfast of porridge and coffee, we packed up and readied ourselves for the return to the car. It would have been nice to push on to Liverpool Hut that morning but work commitments put an end to that plan.
On the walk back to the car, we were graced with clear weather and even treated to glimpses of sunshine. It goes to show how unpredictable and volatile the weather can be in these mountains. But also how breathtakingly beautiful they are.
Stay tuned for a successful Liverpool Hut mission soon.
Additional photos by Emily