Mount Aspiring National Park
Day 2 - Liverpool Hut to Aspiring Hut
Tuesday, February 23
Shortly after 11 a.m., we set out to descend down the Liverpool Track to the Matkutuki Valley below. Once we were down, the going would be easy. It was this first part of our descent that would be the most challenging.
Descending Liverpool Track
With prudence and care, we descended the extreme steepness of the track without any issues. Two hours later we were back at Pearl Flat, batting away the sand flies as we had a much-need lunch break.
We knew the hike from Pearl Flat to the Aspiring Hut was easy, without any challenges, and would only take a couple of hours. Since it was only mid-afternoon, we decided to try and visit more of the sights along the way. The first of these sights was along the Liverpool Stream, which ran right before us at the base of the Liverpool Track. We caught glimpses of some impressive cascades and waterfalls along its lower course, and we took a few minutes to hike up along its banks to view them. We were soon blocked from progressing by a gorge-like constriction, but it was nevertheless a magical little spot. While we couldn't see the main waterfall roaring within, there was a delicate little side stream that tumbled down into the main creek from a bowl-shaped side gully.
Back across Shovel Flat
Returning to Pearl Flat, we began our hike back south along the West Matukituki Track. Halfway across Shovel Flat, we noticed one of the more impressive waterfalls we had seen on the way in - the one cascading down from the slopes below Islington Dome. We decided once again to head off-trail to give it a closer look.
Examining some falls
We were dwarfed by the waterfall as we got close to it. The water reaching the bottom of the nearly 300-foot drop had spread out into a fine mist, giving the flow a fine, misty quality. Usually I take long exposures to achieve this effect, but here at this waterfall, it was already built-in to the view.
After a short sit-down on some large boulders near the falls' base, we began the bushwhack back to the Track. To be efficient, we took an angled line that would intercept the trail a bit further down Shovel Flat, but thick scrub and a few awkward gullies hindered us, and probably meant that we didn't actually gain any time.
After Shovel flat came the lovely stretch of beech forest to the crossing of Rough Creek, and soon after by the beginning of the continous open meadows of lower Matukituki Valley. Another brief crossing through forest and across another bridge and we were at the back lawn of the Aspiring Hut.
Back through Beech Forest
Sturdy Stone Hut
The Aspiring Hut is not actually owned by the New Zealand Park service. Instead, it is owned by the New Zealand Alpine Club, who allow hut tickets to be sold on their behalf by the park service. Built in 1949 and with sleeping berths for 38, the Aspiring Hut is a spacious, comfortable, historic spot to spend some time.
Interactive trackmap with photo points - Liverpool hut to Aspiring hut - click map to view
Aspiring NP Day 2 - Liverpool Hut to Aspiring Hut
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain:
Total Elevation Loss:
* : +/- 75 feet
After picking out our bunks and settling into the Aspiring Hut, we heard some strange yowls outside. From previous experience near the Liverpool Hut, we knew these were the calls of the Kea bird, endemic to this part of New Zealand. They are the world's only alpine parrot and have quite beautiful plumage. Unfortunately, the birds had not come close enough for good pictures up at the Liverpool Hut, so we hurried outside to see if we could do better here.
We located two, maybe three keas flitting about on some dead tree trunks and stumps near the hut. They seemed to be picking at the rotting wood, presumably looking for grubs or insects or something. A pair of juvenile kea settled on a large stump and started play-fighting with each other. They didn't pay us much attention, and we managed to sidle up close to them.
Eventually the playful kea flew off, and we returned to the Aspiring hut to prepare our dinner. As we ate, we could see tendrils of dark cloud creep over the pass at the head of the valley, and the skies above were greyer, darker. The patches of blue that remained grew ever smaller. Clearly the change in the weather predicted in the forecast was coming to pass. At this rate, we fully expected rain sometime during the night.