You need special skills and preparation and excellent fitness to complete the route to Angelus Hut in winter (May to October). There are increased risks from snow, ice, avalanche terrain and sub-zero temperatures. The trip to the hut can take up to 9 hours with limited daylight.
Track standard: Tramping Track, Route
Track surface: Track is covered in snow and is very icy in sections above the bushline.
Suitable for: People with alpine skills, equipment and experience. You must:
- know how to navigate if cloud or snow covers the marker poles and you cannot see them
- know where avalanches are a risk and be able to rescue someone if an avalanche occurs
- have the equipment and skills to prevent a slide on icy terrain
- have the clothing for sub-zero temperatures and be able to survive if the weather gets worse
- be prepared to spend a night in the open or turn back early if your progress is too slow.
Prepare for a challenging tramp
Allow up to 9 hours in heavy snow conditions to complete the Robert Ridge Route or Travers-Cascade Route via Lakehead Hut or Coldwater Hut, and up to 9 hours on the Mt Cedric Track via Sabine Hut.
There are between 9 and 11 hours of daylight in winter, so leave early enough to complete the trip before it gets dark. Always take a head torch.
The snow depth will increase and weather conditions may worsen as you get deeper into the mountains. Be prepared to turn back early if conditions are no longer safe or your progress is too slow.
In whiteout conditions, the tracks can be extremel difficult to find.
Dress for cold, windy and icy conditions
On a calm day, Angelus Hut (1650 m) is at least 6oC colder than at the Rotoiti/Nelson Lakes Visitor Centre. Subtract another 2oC (35.6oF) for every 10 km/h of wind. Subtract another 6.5oC (43.7oF) for every 1000 m ascent.
The routes to Angelus Hut are at altitude in an alpine environment. The weather can be highly changebale - within minutes, the weather can go from clear skies to whiteout conditions. The cold can be intense. Hypothermia is a real risk and can be fatal - recognise the symptoms (people may shiver, be clumsy, confused, have slurred speech, and deny they have a problem).
Layer your clothes to trap warm air in and keep cold wind out. Start with a base layer of polypropylene/merino, add an insulation layer of fleece/wool and finish with a waterproof shell layer.
Expect ice on the track from May to December. Crampons and an ice axe are essential, as is the competency using them. 38% of tramping injuries are from slipping.
Be avalanche alert
Avalanches are a hazard. All tracks/routes to Angelus Hut during winter are subject to avalanches. Carefully consider the the class of avalanche terrain you're getting into (see How ATES applies in Nelson Lakes National Park) and know the avalanche forecast.
Avalanches occur in the park every year normally between June and October but sometimes as late as December. Even if you can't see snow from the track, there may be enough out of sight on the upper slopes to form an avalanche that could reach the track.
Take these essentials
- Plenty of drinking water - there is no drinking water along Robert Ridge Route.
- Gas cooker, fire starter, utensils, sleeping bag, and toilet paper for Angelus Hut.
- Waterproof jacket and pants, hat, gloves, sunscreen, and warm, layered clothing.
- Sturdy tramping or mountaineering boots.
- Crampons and ice axe.
- Avalanche transceiver, avalanche probe and snow shovel.
- Personal locator beacon (PLB), head torch and spare batteries - there is very limited mobile reception on the route, and only on Robert Ridge.
- Map, compass and/or GPS.
Make a plan
Talk with someone at the Rotoiti/Nelson Lakes Visitor Centre who knows the current conditions.
Check the latest:
Know the route – deep snow and whiteout conditions can hide track markers.
Know about the hut in winter
- You may have to dig your way into the hut - snow drifts frequently block the entrance.
- There is no water inside the hut - the plumbing is disconnected to avoid freezing and cracking of pipes
- The hut may be cold - firewood may not be available.
Adults (18+ years) - $30.00
Youth (5-17 years) - $15.00
Child/Infant (0-4 years) - Free
Maximum stay is 2 nights.
Adults (18+ years) - $15.00
Youth (5-17 years) - $7.50
Child/Infant (0-4 years) - Free
Pay at the time of booking. Backcountry Hut Passes and Backcountry Hut Tickets can't be used at this hut.
Bookings are required.
May to October except Queen's Birthday and Labour weekends
- Adult (18+ years): $15 per night
- Youth (11 - 17 years): $7.50 per night
- Child/Infant: (0 - 10 years): free
Before you go, buy 1 Serviced Hut Ticket (green for adults, orange for youth) or 3 Standard Hut Tickets (blue for adults, yellow for youth) for each night's stay. Put these in the honesty box at the hut. Or buy a Backcountry Hut Pass for unlimited use at most Serviced and Standard huts for a 6 or 12 month period.
Bookings are not required - first come, first served
Poles covered in snow
Lake Angelus and hut in winter