Celia Hay

Hike to Lake Crucible, Mount Aspiring National Park

Mount Aspiring (Tititea) is an appropriate name for a mountain and the national park that dominates the Central Otago highlands. Snow-crusted mountains that soar beyond 2000 meters, snow tussocks about 500 metres and New Zealand beech trees rain forests flank the lower altitudes. The Siberia Stream Valley leads on to the Gillespie Pass but a side trip can take you to Lake Crucible, a glacial lake that sits below Mt Alba and when we visit in late December, icebergs were still floating on the surface. 

DOC Department of Conservation Map of this area. Click here details.

This is our 9th family expedition into the mountains of Otago and Fiordland and for the first time we have had to change plans because of rains and gale winds to over 100 kilometres.


Alice Hay, Oliver Hay and Celia Hay

We had planned to hike up the Young River, stay in the Department of Conservation Hut and traverse the Gillespie Pass which climbs to 1700 metres. Not easy. Probably, less of a mission was Plan B however the mountain weather forecast was still predicting rains and gales. This plan involved taking a jet boat for 30 minutes up the Wilkin River and dropped off. We then had a 3-hour hike to Siberia Hut.

    
    

The jet boat trip up the Wilkin was exfoliating, with gusts hitting boat as it quickly accelerated to manoeuvre around shingle river braids, hidden rocks and debris. White knuckled, from holding the handrail so tightly, we disembarked and hiked to Siberia.

On day two, knowing that we would return to Siberia Hut for a second night, we ventured to Lake Crucible, blessed with only one day pack. A gruelling 4 hours clambering alongside an overflowing waterfall, through 250 metres of beech tree roots, practising river-crossing techniques as we scouted the various streams, linked arms to step through the waters. At the Crucible Stream I was drenched to my hips.

  

We crossed 10 streams through the day, and we pleased that the park ranger at Siberia Hut (photo above) have given us a briefing on river crossing. We entered the alpine zone at 1100 metres, gales, rain and river-crossings. With Mt Alba high above 2360, we entered in avalanche terrain and finally Lake Crucible emerged above a final rock face.

By this time the weather was starting to deteriorate so we took the obligatory photos of the icebergs in the lake and clambered back down the roots and rocks to Siberia Hut which took another 3 hours. It was an alpine adventure.

For more information visit DOC Gillespie Pass Circuit

Wilkin River Jet ...offer many different trips in this region. They operate out of Makaroa, located on the state highway that runs from Lake Wanaka to Haast.

Celia Hay

27/12/21