Isthmus Peak is a challenging day hike that starts in Lake Hawea ends with expansive views of both Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka. The climb is relentless, so be prepared to spend some time on your yoga mat later stretching your quads, hamstrings, and calves. Some of my favorite post-hike yoga poses include: half splits, low lunge, standing or prone quad stretches, skandasana, and janu sirsasana. I also recommend purchasing a lacrosse ball to roll on and give yourself a yummy myofascial massage; it has been my saving grace for my neck and shoulders while traveling!
I chose a sunny day in September to summit Isthmus Peak. The track is uncovered and open so you get to enjoy beautiful views the entire walk. There was still snow at the summit and it was a bit challenging walking through the icy slush. It was a quiet day on the track, so I was able to soak in the breathtaking views. The hike down is a bit tough on your knees, but again, the views make it well worth it!
Treble Cone Closing Day
I splurged on a season pass for Treble Cone and it was an epic ski season! The mountain offers intermediate and advanced terrain both on and off piste. Oh, and the views aren’t so bad either. My flexible schedule allowed me to take advantage of the powder days, and I learned from the locals the best runs on the mountain. I loved hiking up to the summit for 360 degree views and fresh tracks on the way down. The Motatapu Chutes were another favorite – they are more technical, so it’s a bonus if you have a local friend to guide you.
Closing day is not to be missed. Everyone dresses up in crazy costumes for a boozy day on the mountain. The courtyard featured a DJ for apres ski dance party breaks between runs. I opted to pay for a party bus that took us up to Treble Cone that morning and left in the afternoon for a dip in Lake Wanaka and several after parties. It was a crazy and fun day; I ended up drinking and dancing in my costume until the wee hours of the morning.
View of Lake Wanaka and the Southern Alps from the Summit
The track to Aspiring Hut starts at the car park for Rob Roy Glacier, which I wrote about a few months ago. A good friend of mine, Rosie returned home to Australia and had a going away party out at Aspiring Hut. Throughout New Zealand you’ll find overnight huts maintained by the Department of Conservation. They have cots, a lounge area, and running water, making tramping a lot easier since you don’t have to carry all of your camping equipment. Some of these huts are free and are first-come, first-serve. Definitely check online before you start your hike because some of these huts do need to be reserved in advance and require a nightly fee.
I had to move out of my house that weekend and I was preparing to leave for a five-week trip to Australia and the Cook Islands in two days, so I was in a bit of a crazed state. After loading up my car with everything I own, I drove out to the track and started my journey to Aspiring Hut at around 7:00 p.m. The track is predominantly flat and well-marked. I arrived at the hut in the dark, which is doable with a good headlamp, but not recommended. I arrived at Aspiring Hut around 9:00 p.m. and joined the party. There were about 20 of us – we lucked out and had the whole hut to ourselves.
Rosie, showing off our artisan cheese plate skills
I left the following morning to walk back to my car and was taken aback by the gorgeous scenery since I’d arrived in the dark the night prior. It was a beautiful, sunny day and I had to stop and admire the beauty of the river, the waterfalls, and wildlife around me. It was early October and there were heaps of calves and lambs running around. I tried to hop into the freezing glacier river for a swim, but I made it in knee deep before I bailed.
As you approach the end of the track, you pass by Rob Roy Glacier on your right, and I saw a small avalanche as I walked past. I usually gravitate towards the mountain summits, but this is a nice, flat walk through the valley and was one of my favorite walks in the area.
Small Avalanche at Rob Roy Glacier