At the far end of Shovel Flat, the trail once again entered dense beech forest. This forest stretch was very short - perhaps only ten minutes or so, when we emerged onto the grass of yet another open meadow, this one quite small. Known as Pearl Flat, this was the last such meadow along the valley floor.
A small bridge across Liverpool Stream marked the end of our journey along the West Matukituki Track. On the other side, a sign marked the junction with the Liverpool Track - our access to the Liverpool Hut and the upper slopes of Mt Barff.
The Liverpool Track climbs about 2000 feet (650m) over a distance of perhaps slightly more than one kilometre. That gave it an extremely steep gradient. I had read quite a bit about the Liverpool Track, about how it was a challenging, steep, rooty challenge. It was time to put ourselves to the test!
Steep Forest Path
A few metres beyond the Liverpool Track sign, the trail reached the edge of the forest and immediately started climbing. It was steep and rough, but we'd been on Adirondack trails many a time, and steep and rough is common there. The grade didn't stay at steep, however. It got steeper - and then steeper still. Each step had more vertical than horizontal, winding upwards through a dense beech forest.
The steepness did not lessen, and the trail gained altitude at a relentless pace. I soon discovered that my hiking poles were more of a hindrance than a help, and packed them away.
The trail descriptions I had read had talked about roots. And there were indeed roots - as the trail attained its steepest pitch, roots sprouted out of the ground everywhere. They were actually extremely helpful, assisting passage up many otherwise tricky sections. Without the roots, this would have been a rather challenging trail, from a technical perspective.
Roots, roots, and more roots
Although the roots may kept the trail from being overly challenging from a technical perspective, the trail was challenging physically, and our pace slowed down. We resorted to our tried-and-true "Quarter-K" break system, chopping the climb up into manageable little chunks. Slowly we ratcheted our way up through the steep forest. As we ascended, we got the occasional view down to the valley floor, now far below us.
Liverpool Hut, first view
It took us about two hours to climb the 1800 or so feet of elevation to treeline, where we got our first closeup glimpse of the Liverpool hut off to our left. Unfortunately an un-navigable gully blocked the easiest route over to the hut. Instead, on some rather slippery and awkwardly-tilted bedrock, the track climbed another 200 or so feet to the top of a grassy knoll. From the top of the knoll, we had a superb open view of a huge swath of mountain scenery, including back down the entire upper half of the West Matukituki Valley. We stopped for a break and to allow our group to reunite (we had each devolved into different climbing paces as we neared the top of this strenuous climb).
The now-poled track crossed over the top of the grassy knoll, where we had a good bird's eye view down onto the orange-sided Liverpool Hut. We had learned from the rangers earlier today that the hut was going to be busy and overbooked, and sure enough, we could see many visitors milling about even from here.
Happy to be done with climbing for the day, we hiked down the far side of the grassy knoll, following the Liverpool Track as it wound its way down into the hollow that contained the hut. We arrived right around 6pm - a bit later than I had anticipated, but still a very reasonable time.
Liverpool hut and valley below
Lounging at the Liverpool
Liverpool and Aspiring Huts
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Hike to Liverpool Hut - click map to view
Aspiring NP Day 1 - Raspberry Creek TH to Liverpool Hut
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain:
Total Elevation Loss:
* : +/- 75 feet