Gillespie Pass Circuit

Alert/Important notice

VHF radio removal and windfall on Siberia Track

The VHF radio has been removed from the Young River Mouth. Trampers are encouraged to use the Blue-Young Link track when the Makarora River is high.

Windfall, 30 mins from Kerin Forks on Siberia Track - can be negotiated with care.

Track category

Tramping track

Time:  

3 - 4 days

Distance:  

58 km

Description

This is an excellent 58 km, 3-4 day circuit, with spectacular mountain scenery, alpine vegetation and river valleys filled with silver beech.

Suitable outside the winter months for relatively experienced parties, this circuit can be walked in a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction.

Parties with river crossing experience may wish to cross the Makarora River, otherwise jetboat transport is available to cross the Makarora River into either the Young or Wilkin valleys. In addition, the new Blue-Young Link Track offers a swing-bridge crossing of the Makarora River and access to the Young Valley.

A side trip to Crucible Lake is exceptional. 

This description begins from the Young/Makarora confluence.

Blue Pools to Young River Mouth (no river crossing)

Time: 1.5 - 2 hr, one way
Distance: 7 km

Starting from the Blue Pools carpark (8 km north of Makarora Visitor Centre), the track passes through both extensive beech/tawhero forest and open country, and provides bridged crossings over the Makarora and Blue Rivers and the Ore and Leven Streams. 

Makarora to Young Hut

Time: 6 - 7 hr
Distance: 20 km

Trampers walking up to the head of the south branch of the Young River.
Trampers walking up to the head of
the south branch of the Young River

Access to the Young Valley is signposted on the left of SH 6, 2.5 km north of the Makarora Visitor Centre.

Cross the stile and follow the orange poles to the Young and Makarora rivers junction. Cross the Makarora River and follow the Young River’s true left to a swing bridge at the junction of the north and south branches (3-4 hours).

The track divides after the bridge and the Young Forks camping site is 200 metres up stream, where there is an open sided shelter, fireplace and toilet, which campers are encouraged to use. From the bridge the track continues downstream, crosses a grassy flat, then enters the forest on the true left of the south branch, just beyond the junction. It climbs steeply for 100 metres and then sidles through a series of unstable slips to reach Stag Creek. From here it’s a steady climb to the new, 20-bunk Young Hut.

Be aware that the 260 series topographic map, F38 Wilkin, shows the location of the old Young Hut. The new Young Hut is located at: E2197460, N5662815.

The last stage to Gillespie Pass. Photo: E Wilson.
The last stage before Gillespie Pass.

Young Hut to Siberia Hut

Time: 6 - 8 hr
Distance: 12 km

Climb to the bushline, cross the bridge over the Upper Young and follow the valley floor for about 20 minutes, to reach the start of the Gillespie Pass track on your left. Fill your water bottles before leaving the valley as this is usually the last water source until well over the pass.

The track climbs steeply alongside a rock bluff onto a snow grass spur that, after 3-4 hours, leads to the 1490 metre pass. From here there’s an impressive view - Mount Alba dominates the skyline. From the pass follow the ridge to the south-east for about 20 minutes before sidling down through a series of snow grass basins. Take care; snow grass can be very slippery when wet.

The track enters the forest on a small predominant spur and leads down to Gillespie Stream, a beautiful spot for a rest. The track continues down through the forest, sidling above Gillespie Stream before descending in a series of zigzags to Siberia Stream. On the valley floor, it’s an easy hour’s walk to the 20-bunk Siberia Hut.

Mount Awful from the Gillespie Pass.
Mount Awful from the top of the
Gillespie Pass

Siberia Hut to Makarora

Time: 7 - 8 hr
Distance: 26 km

About 30 minutes down from Siberia Hut, travelling on the true left, the track to the Wilkin Valley enters the forest at the southern end of Siberia Flat. It sidles above the Siberia Gorge to descend in a series of zigzags to the Wilkin River (7 km, 2-3 hours).

Kerin Forks to Makarora - SH6; 15 km, 4-5 hours. The track follows down the flats and enters the forest at the bottom of Dan’s Flat – rough in places, but well marked. When the Wilkin is low it’s quicker to cross the river at the bottom of Dan's Flat, follow the flats on the other side, to cross back where the Wilkin and Makarora Rivers meet. Cross with care, watching for quick or soft sand, then either follow up the open river flats or continue out to the main road, to Makarora Township.

To reach the 10-bunk Kerin Forks Hut from Siberia Hut, cross the Wilkin River. The hut can’t be seen from the forks, it's at the western end of the large flats, 400 metres downstream from the Siberia Stream junction.

It’s possible to fly by plane out of the Siberia Valley (Southern Alps Air) or catch a jet boat from Kerin Forks (Wilkin River Jets).

All transport needs to be pre-arranged with the transport providers. The Siberia Hut Warden cannot make bookings.

Note: A good day trip from Siberia Hut to Crucible Lake is possible from Siberia Hut. The details are below.

Lake Crucible icebergs on Gillespie Pass
Icebergs on Lake Crucible

Siberia Hut to Crucible Lake

Time: 3 - 4 hr
Distance: 7 km

The Siberia Valley is a beautiful place; above it Lake Crucible nestles under Mt Alba. For an excellent day trip from Siberia Hut, go up the valley flats to the Crucible Stream, where the track enters the forest on the true left. It then climbs a narrow spur, sidles around to a river crossing and comes out on a snowgrass flat. Follow the markers in the upper basin and then just go up the flat to the lake. The tiny rock wren/tuke is often seen among the large rocks at the lake outlet.

Camping is not allowed in the Crucible Basin, because of its fragile, alpine herb field.

Getting there

The Blue-Young Link Track. Photo: A Smith.
Passing through beech/tawhero forest
on the Blue-Young Link Track 

The circuit can begin from either confluences: the Wilkin/Makarora River or Young/Makarora.

Either starting point can be reached by jet boat.

The new Blue-Young Link Track (7 km, 1.5-2 hr) offers a swing-bridge crossing of the Makarora River.  The track starts at the Blue Pools carpark (off SH6 and 8 km north of Makarora Visitor Centre) and passes through beech/tawhai forest and open flats to reach the Young/Makarora Confluence. 

Plan and prepare

A dam that formed in the North Branch of the Young Valley in 2007 still poses a potential risk to trampers.  It is recommended that the Young Valley is avoided during periods of heavy rain. For further information contact: DOC Makarora on +64 3 443 8365 or DOC Wanaka +64 3 443 7660.

Always follow the outdoor safety code.

Before you go into the outdoors, tell someone your plans and leave a date to raise the alarm if you haven't returned. To do this, use the New Zealand Outdoors Intentions process on the AdventureSmart website. It is endorsed by New Zealand's search and rescue agencies and provides three simple options to tell someone you trust the details about your trip.


Related link

Gillespie Pass, Wilkin Valley Tracks brochure (PDF, 702K)

 

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Contacts

Tititea / Mount Aspiring National Park Visitor Centre
Phone:      +64 3 443 7660
Address:   Ardmore Street
Wanaka 9305
Email:   mtaspiringvc@doc.govt.nz
Full office details
Makarora Visitor Centre
Phone:      +64 3 443 8365
Address:   Haast Pass Highway
State Hwy 6
Email:   makaroravc@doc.govt.nz
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