The track starts from Fantail Falls. The track crosses the unbridged Haast River River – if river levels are high (for example, during/after rain or if the snow is melting), you may not be able to cross the river safely. Assess the river carefully before crossing and if in doubt, stay out.
Always check the weather forecast before starting Brewster Track. We strongly recommend that you do not tramp this track if rain is forecast – the Haast River may rise during your hike and mean you cannot cross the river back to the car park.
After crossing the Haast River, the track climbs steadily through beech forest to the bush line. From here the track continues up a snow grass face and onto a narrow ridge leading up towards Brewster Hut. The hut is situated next to a small tarn.
Brewster Track ends at the hut and there is no track to Mt Armstrong or Brewster Glacier. Do not attempt to hike beyond the hut unless you are an experienced mountaineer. The terrain is much more difficult than it looks. Many people have had to be rescued from the area.
The weather can change rapidly in New Zealand. Hypothermia is a real risk even in summer. Be prepared by having warm, waterproof, windproof clothing and the appropriate footwear. Whiteout conditions caused by snow or low cloud may be present. Check the Mount Aspiring National Park weather forecast – NIWA website.
In winter, alpine skills are essential. See section on May to November.
What to take
A distress beacon, emergency shelter and spare food are essential for this trip, even as a day walk in summer.
In winter, you will need extra gear. See section on May to November.
Unbridged crossing of the Haast River
The Haast River crossing at the start/end of Brewster Track. This shows the river at higher levels than normal, discoloured and flowing fast.
Image: © Jon Moake
Near the car park, Brewster Track crosses the Haast River. This is not bridged and the river needs to be walked through. This crossing is dangerous when the river is in flood, usually during/after heavy rain or when there is snow melt.
If you have crossed safely in the morning and there is rain during your trip, the river may not be crossable on your return. This is why it is very important to check the forecast before your trip. We recommend rescheduling or choosing another destination if rain is forecast.
When you get to Haast River, look out for the warning signs of an unsafe river: water flowing faster than walking pace, discoloured water, debris in the river, and the sound of rocks rolling in the river bed.
If you aren’t sure it’s safe to cross, don’t cross – wait for the river to drop, or change your plans and return another day or return to the hut.
Be ready for delays from this river crossing. Carry an emergency shelter, plenty of spare food, and plan your day so a wait at the river won’t inconvenience you.
Learn how to cross a river safely on the Mountain Safety Council website.
You need special skills and preparation to tramp Brewster Track from May to November. There are increased risks from snow, ice, avalanches, bad weather and sub-zero temperatures.
You need mountaineering skills and experience
In winter, Brewster Track is only suitable for people with mountaineering skills, experience and equipment. 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.
Pack for alpine winter conditions
Conditions can change quickly. 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. Carry a distress beacon.
Be avalanche alert
This area has terrain that can produce avalanches that cross the track, usually from May into November. View avalanche information and the terrain rating for this track.
Know the avalanche forecast. If there is avalanche danger, take an avalanche transceiver, avalanche probe and snow shovel, and make sure you are confident using them.