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Makarora to Gillespies Pass

The Young-Wilkin circuit in Aspiring National Park has to be one of the most spectacular multi-day walks I’ve ever done. Dianne and I did this in February 2012 and although it stretched us at times to the limit, we wouldn’t have missed it for anything. We left from Makarora after being dropped off by the bus at the DOC visitor centre. The first day’s walk up the Young River valley started off very kindly, but once past the forks, it climbed steeply, and by 5 pm we were very happy to drop our packs on a grassy river flat and pitch our tent for the night.

Young River basin

Young River basin looking towards Mt Horrible – the track climbs the slopes to the left, 1km or so away

The next day dawned clear and sunny, and we were quickly up and away, aware of the rigours ahead. We climbed steadily past the Young River hut, and then into the hanging valley of the Young Basin, where a km or two of flat going led us to the foot of Gillespies Pass.This has to be one of the steepest climbing tracks I’ve ever done – 500 m straight up onto Gillespies Pass, overseen by the grim south face of Mt Horrible. Once on the top we rested for a bit before finding a camp site 200 m or so below the pass in the headwaters of the Gillespie Stream. A foggy descent the next morning then saw us safely camped on the Siberia Flats a km or so upstream from Gillespies Stream.

A side trip to Lake Crucible

The next day was gorgeously fine and clear and we packed day packs to head up Crucible Stream and the glacial lake that lies at its head. Another very steep climb got us up into this hanging valley, where the scrub above treeline was alive with birds – a mix of native and introduced species including riflemen, tomtits, yellow-hammers, chaffinches, etc. The climb gradually steepened again culminating in a last steep clamber up a moraine wall and then voila – the most amazingly clear, cold water, complete with icebergs, and back by the steep rock faces descending off the east face of Mt. This has to be one of the most spectacular alpine lakes I’ve seen, and I spent a lot of time exploring its margins with camera in hand, before heading around its south side to climb up to the foot of the cliffs overlooking the lake – sort of a seat in the gods! Here the snow marguerites and Mt Cook lilies (should be anemones) were flowering profusely in the accumulated gravels, giving a spectacular foreground to the lake views.

Crucible Lake

Crucible Lake

More images from this trip can be found here