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Rees-Dart: The Most Beautiful Glacier

Published
December 28, 2020
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THIS POST ACCOMPANIES MY BOOK THE SENSATIONAL SOUTH ISLAND: NEW ZEALAND'S MOUNTAIN LAND, AND WILL BE UPDATED SHORTLY

.com, Feb. 2017)

 

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T was cold, and boggy underfoot, asa few friends and I began our tramp up the Dart River on the great Rees-DartTrack near Glenorchy.

Part of the South Island’s World Heritage area, the Rees andDart Valleys were first used by the Ngāi Tahu people of Murihiku/Southland andOtago for hunting moa and collecting greenstone.

Alongside its English name, the Dart River has an officialMāori name which also appears on maps, Te Awa Whakatipu, meaning the river thatdrains into Lake Wakatipu.

The route runs up a beautiful flat-bottomed river valley andjoins with the Rees River in quite different country, at the Tititea/MountAspiring National Park boundary, before looping back to Lake Wakatipu down the Rees.

It’s at that upper point that you can also go still furtherup the Dart/Te Awa Whakatipu to the Dart Glacier, or over the Cascade SaddleTrack into the Matukituki Valley.

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From the mouth of the Dart River/Te Awa Whakatipu, it’sseven kilometres hiking to Shelter Rock, the first hut on the four-dayRees-Dart Track.

We left Shelter Rock at about eight o’clock the next morningto make our way to Dart Hut. Heading over the Rees Saddle we encountered alight dusting of snow on the track. I have had experience tramping in snow anddone some alpine training, but I hadn’t brought any crampons with me on thistrip.

Thankfully,we managed to descend the saddle safely and re-joined the track down toDart Hut. It was quite a long day of tramping, but it certainly was a beautifulwalk, with the snow only adding to the already spectacular mountain scenery.

I found a bunk in the Dart Hut, where we were to spend twonights, and decided to take a look at the Dart Glacier.

We finally reached the Dart Glacier and I fell absolutely inlove with it. As we climbed up towards the Cascade Saddle, the glacier turnedfrom rock and scree into an icy, white slash in the landscape.

We made it back to Dart Hut, and I carried on to Daley’sFlat Hut, which felt like a different walk altogether. Between the two huts,and all the way through to Chinaman’s Bluff, you follow a faint track throughsprawling beech forests and across terraces – very different from thesnow-covered Rees Saddle we had crossed earlier!

A booking system also now exists for the huts on theRees-Dart Track, and it pays to book ahead for those, as well.

                             

Two images (above and below) of the Dart Glacierand its terminal moraine, from slightly different vantage points

The lonesome Cascade Saddle Toilet

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