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Days: 8 days
Grade: E
(Previous trekking experience essential)
Pre-track Briefing:

The guide will meet you the day before departure, 4.30 pm, at 58 McDougall Street, Wanaka to do a full gear check and finalise last minute details.

Start/Finish: Start: Wanaka, 8.30am
Finish: Wanaka, by 5pm

December 2019: 16, 28
January 2020: 12, 25
February 2020: 9, 23
March 2020: 4, 22
April 2020: 1


Period 1st Jun 19 - 31st May 20
  Adult (3 - 4 people) NZD $3,300.00
  Adult (2 people) NZ $3,950.00

The '2 people' rate applies when there are only two bookings in total on a particular trip date. The price reduces once there are three or more people booked, and any later reduction in price would be applied to your booking as appropriate. Please enquire as to the rate you should select when booking.



Wanaka - Young Valley

7 hours hiking

You'll be picked up from your accommodation and will then depart for the Young Valley. If the rivers are high then jet boat access to the start of the track is provided. The Young Valley is a wonderland of dense native forest and high peaks. The trail steepens and climbs steadily to tree line. 650m ascent


Young Valley - Gillespie Stream

6 hours hiking

The track winds its way up the valley sidewall under the awesome east face of Mount Awful. This is really an alpine paradise. The track climbs steeply alongside a rock bluff onto a snow grass spur that after 3 to 4 hours, leads to the pass. The climbing ends at Gillespie Pass and one of the great view points of the Southern Alps. From here there's an impressive view, with Mount Alba dominating the skyline. After a short downhill you walk through the forest to reach your camp next to Gillespie Stream. 550m ascent 550m descent


Gillespie Stream - Wilkin River

5 hours hiking

It is all down hill today. The track meanders through the beautiful Siberia Valley and then plunges steeply to the Wilkin River where your mountain hut awaits. Here the group is resupplied by jet boat so fresh vegetables are back on the menu! From here on sleeping bags are supplied at the campsites so you no longer need to carry sleeping bag and sleeping mat. 650m descent


Wilkin River - Top Forks

7 hours hiking

Following the Wilkin River the track gradually rises until reaching the Top Forks. This area is one of New Zealand’'s treasures with outstanding native bush and hanging glaciers. The track alternates between forest and open river flats. Top Forks Hut has a wood burning stove and views that are hard to believe. 300m ascent


Top Forks - Lake Castalia return

7 hours hiking

Leave your packs behind for a day trip to Lake Castalia. The track is rugged with plenty of stream crossings and boulder scrambling. Some may prefer a shorter day or just a rest day to swim and admire the world class views. 500m ascent 500m descent or a rest day

Note : if the weather forecast is good your guide may decide it is of benefit to head over Rabbit Pass early on this day rather than wait for the next. In this case you may spend an extra day at Pickelhaub or Aspiring Discovery Camp, or you may head out of the Aspiring National Park a day early. The last day would then be a day walk from Wanaka.


Rabbit Pass

9-11 hours hiking

An early start gets you up to Waterfall Flat. It is not hard to imagine where it gets its name with torrents of water pouring off the surrounding cliffs. The improbable scramble up the Waterfall Face leads to Rabbit Pass. You will be clipped into a fixed handline for 60 meters to give you confidence on the trickiest part of the route. A long descent through native herb gardens is a magical end to an exhilarating day. Pickelhaub Camp is an expedition type setup with a cook tent, table and chairs with smaller four person tents to sleep in. 900m ascent 650 descent


Matukituki Valley - Aspiring

7-8 hours hiking

Waking to the sound of icefalls crashing off the towering Mt Pickelhaub, you have a leisurely breakfast before heading down the East Matukituki Valley. Even with no track the going is easy through this isolated scenic valley. Once you come to the magnificent Bledisloe Gorge the climbing begins again. From open river flats, through ancient forest and up to the alpine, this is a day that has it all. You camp at our incomparable Aspiring Camp. 200m descent 300 ascent


Aspiring Camp - Wanaka

5 hours hiking

It is the last day of the trek, and we all know what that means, that’s right: pancakes, whipped cream and blueberry jam. The trail down to the valley floor winds through tall beech with Mt. Aspiring dominating the view. Gradually the track opens out into farm land just before you meet out waiting transport back to civilization and a hot shower. 500m descent

Grading & Fitness

Grade: E
Up to 8-9hrs physical activity each day.
Altitude gains of 900 to 1000m.
Some exposure to heights.
Hiking experience necessary.
High level of fitness required.

To enjoy your Gillespie/Rabbit Passes trek you need to be fit and have good balance. The track is rugged, steep, and exposed. Sometimes the footing is unstable scree and you will wade through many rivers and sidestreams. Hikers should be able to maintain a slow but steady pace up hill for an hour between rest stops. The trip is appropriate for people with good balance and are comfortable with heights. You will only carry a pack with your own clothing and gear and a sleeping bag for the first 2 nights of the trip. Each days walking is designed to be 5-9 hours long (not including rests).

What to Take

You will only carry a pack with your own clothing and gear and a sleeping bag for the first 2 nights of the trip. All you need is appropriate clothing, a good pair of walking shoes or hiking boots (and a spirit of adventure with a good dose of endurance for this trip!!).

Essential Items

  • Base layer – 2 x thermal tops and 2 x thermal bottoms (150-190 weight)
  • Insulating layer top - 1 x light (200-300 weight) and 1 x heavy (300+ weight)
  • Waterproof layer -  jacket and overpants
  • Lightweight quick drying shorts or pants and shirt for warm weather


  • Sturdy hiking boots (broken in hopefully)
  • Gaiters (optional)
  • 2 pair warm socks


  • Windproof warm gloves or mittens


  • Warm hat which covers ears
  • Sun hat
  • Sun glasses
  • Sun cream and lip cream


  • 45 litre back pack
  • Pack liner or large plastic bag
  • Inflatable sleeping mat
  • Bowl & spoon (cups are supplied)
  • Insect repellent
  • Personal toiletries and medication
  • Camera
  • Headtorch or flashlight
  • Toilet paper
  • Water bottle (at least one litre)


  • Collapsible trekking pole (3 section pole best to fit into a small pack)
  • Light book or magazine
  • Ear plugs – handy when snorers are in the huts!


Equipment Hire

Per day (NZ$)

Backpack (40-50 litres)




Inflatable sleeping mat


Walking pole (pair)


Sleeping Bag & liner


Base layer - top & bottom (purchase from) 


Gaiters (purchase from)


Headlamp (purchase from)



You have an hour journey to Makarora before you hike starts. If the river is in flood then cross the river with a jet boat.


Energy snacks and nutritious meals are an essential ingredient in helping you perform to your highest standard. Good wholesome meals are provided and plenty of it. Specific dietary requirements are catered for.


You stay at mixture of Department of Conservation mountain huts and pre-placed camp sites. During busy times (typically Christmas/ New Year holiday period) in the less remote areas of the hike such as Gillespie Pass, there are camping options available if DOC huts are crowded. Sit back in the door of your private tent while a good wholesome meal is prepared (no freeze dried food here!). Everything is supplied for you so all you need to do is relax and enjoy this alpine paradise.

Additional Costs

Hire gear if anything needed.

As described, the Gillespie Rabbit Passes 8 day is NZ's hardest guided trek. Even people who have hiked extensively at altitude in Nepal or South America are often surprised at the toughness of the NZ backcountry. We rely on our clients to make a realistic assessment of their endurance levels and tolerance for heights. Should, however clients find that they have underestimated the difficulty of this hike, there are 2 places to exit the trip, the first by jetboat on Day 3 or Day 4 by helicopter before travelling over Rabbit Pass into the remote East Matukituki valley. Please note that should clients be required to leave this trip early, the costs of jetboat or helicopter exit and additional transport to and from Wanaka will be to the clients account. There are no refunds if you fail to complete the trip.

On the Rabbit Pass route in particular, if your guide determines that it is not safe to cross, an alternative hiking route will be utilised and all costs relating to a jetboat exit from the mountains are included. Should the group wish to use a helicopter to exit the mountains a surcharge ranging between $210 - $430 divided equally between each person in the group is payable.

If your party is unable to egress from the mountains at the end of your trip for any reason, a fee of NZ$550 plus expenses (including but not limited to hut & park fees) per extra day is applicable to your party, and is divided between the trip participants.

Guides & Safety

The mountain guides are qualified through the New Zealand Mountain Guides Association. The NZMGA are affiliated to the International Federation of Mountain Guides Association who governs mountain guiding worldwide. The specialist trekking guides are 'hand-picked' from within the industry, in light of their qualifications, knowledge, experience level and communication skills. Some of them have NZMGA qualifications, others have rock climbing, ski patrol and outdoor leadership qualifications. All have strong first-aid skills and a wealth of local experience on the routes guided.


How large does my pack need to be and how heavy is it likely to be?
A 35-45 litre pack will be sufficient and it will be around 9kgs. You will need to carry your own personal clothing and gear, sleeping bag and mat for the first 2 nights: no tents, food (other than day lunch supplies, snacks & your own special dietary requirements) or cooking supplies. This gear (sleeping bag and mat) is then taken out by jet boat back to Wanaka on Day 3 as all camping equipment is stored at the pre-placed campsites. We will also receive fresh food and vegetables on this day.

What about my other luggage and valuables?
Additional luggage and valuables can be securely stored at the office in Wanaka during your trip.

What if I want to book as a single?
Try to choose a scheduled date, and if that doesn't fit, let us know. We can book you as a single and then will try to match others to your dates. If we cannot find at least one other person for the dates you want, one month before the start date we will give you a full refund.

What about the weather?
New Zealand is famous for its changeable weather. The mountains here are characterised by long sunny fine periods mixed with sudden and sometimes heavy rain or snow. Our experienced guides are well equipped to provide the best possible trip and have many years experience in judging the conditions. Travel in bad weather is an art in itself; the temperate rain forest here is absolutely beautiful in the rain. We have a extra day built into this itinerary so if we need to make another attempt to cross Rabbit Pass (due to bad weather) we have that opportunity. Sometimes this spare day is not required and we will come out from the walk one day earlier (trip will then become 7 days). We will continue to take care of the group & will provide backpacker dormitory bunk accommodation in Wanaka & food for dinner on Night 7, breakfast supplies & lunch on Day 8.  You are welcome either to join your guide for a local day hike around Wanaka on Day 8 or finish your trip early and do your own thing.  But please note there are no refunds if the hike finishes a day early. 

How do I get to Wanaka?
The closest airport is in Queenstown, 1 hour away. Some flights from Australia come direct into Queenstown. There are regular shuttles between Queenstown airport and Wanaka.

In an emergency are we in contact with the outside world while on our trip?
All climbing trips and courses are in radio and phone communications with the Operations/Safety base and the Department of Conservation local office that manages each National Park area. Weather information and coordination of helicopters are through these channels. In some circumstances mountain radio links are available for the relay of any urgent messages.

What do we eat? I have a special diet, is this OK?
One thing we hear every trip is "the food was great! I never knew it was possible to eat so well on a hiking trip". We put a lot of work into supplying you with wholesome meals with a variety of healthy and tasty ingredients and snacks catering to common preferences. Where possible, we provide fresh vegetables and real coffee. However, there will always be limitations when cooking in an alpine or wilderness environment.  Meals like salads are limited or not possible to provide.
Some trips/courses are not recommended for people with very restrictive or complex dietary requirements. If you do have a restrictive eating regime we ask that you disclose this to us at the time of booking and we may ask you to provide us with an advance copy of what you would typically eat on a wilderness trip. For highly specialised diets requiring special food purchases - we may ask that you attend our offices on the day before your trip is due to commence. 
If you are joining a scheduled group that doesn't have food requirements, we may ask you to shop & pay for some of your preferred dietary requirements. You will also be required to carry this food and your guide may ask you to assist in the preparation of any separate meals required for you individually.   

What time does the trip finish?
The trip finishes anytime between 2pm and 5pm (but typically between 3pm and 4pm).

Booking Conditions


NB: Please note that this itinerary is a sample only and the actual itinerary may vary at the discretion of your guide. Weather, conditions and personal ability and needs may make changes necessary or advantageous to the participants.


For bookings 4 or more months in advance of the departure a 25% deposit can be paid with the remainder due 65 days prior to your trip. For bookings within 4 months of the departure, full payment is required.


Over 60 days before tour: $200 per person cancellation fee
Between 60 days and 30 days before tour: 50% of total trip fee as a cancellation fee
Between 29 days and 15 days: 75% of total trip fee as a cancellation fee
15 days or less before tour: NO REFUND
No refund for any services not utilised after tour has started

Medical Conditions:

When you book you must notify us of any medical condition, medical history, or medications that you are on. In particular, asthma, diabetes, heart conditions, anti-depressants, allergies to wasp/bee stings and food allergies.

Travel Insurance

Injuries are covered by the New Zealand Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC). ACC pays for the majority of costs incurred in evacuation and treatment of injured people. They do not cover you in case of illness. We recommend that you have travel insurance that will cover you in being repatriated to your home country. Most standard travel insurance policies that cover lost deposit or cancellation fees will cover you in case you are somehow prevented from participating in the trip. World Nomads Travel Insurance provides online quotes.

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