We’ve picked a great day for a hike up to the Rob Roy glacier track.  The weather could not have been better!  Scattered clouds with a mostly blue sky and about 25c.  Not too hot.  Still, this is New Zealand, the rain gear is packed on TOP of everything because you never know!

We gratefully accept a ride from Erica, a friend of ours who is also interested in doing the same track.  She’s just run a marathon 2 days previous and wants to do the LONG version of the hike.  Yes, CRAZY!  We’re only going 1/2 way up, as we’re still sore from previous hikes, but why not share a ride?

We load up with extra water, not wanting to run out again and head to the car.  The start of the trail is about an hour’s drive  from Wanaka, down a gravel road that frequently washes out and has MANY warning signs.

We told you so!

We have to stop several times to allow sheep or cows to get off the road ahead of us.  Perhaps building a fence never occurred to them?

It’s not long before were VERY grateful that we accepted Erica’s offer.  We wouldn’t have risked taking our rental car down that road and it would have been a LONG walk to/from the trail.  Later, we meet some hitchhikers who tell us that their car was so low on gas that they’ve left it behind.  They’re at least 30 minutes from a gas station, in the other direction. They were lucky to get a ride.  It would have been a LONG walk.  Hopefully, this will be a lesson learned and they’ll head out with a full gas tank next time!

There are small creeks crossing the road in a few places.  Nothing too deep, but bad enough that I’m glad I’m not the one behind the wheel!  Each crossing has a warning sign:  “FORD!!”  Which we all find very amusing as we’re driving a Ford brand vehicle.

We reach the parking area at the end of the road.  There’s a water station for those that didn’t bring their own.  I don’t know if I’d trust the water here though.  It’s probably mountain runoff from the Glacier.  Might be good.  Might not.  But it’s certainly going to be COLD!

We grab our packs, our sunglasses (or sunny’s as the Aussie’s say,) and slap on the sunscreen, which is required here.  The UV is just SO intense in New Zealand.

Leading up to the trail, there are fields with few trees and plenty of sheep.  I guess it’s warmer than I expected, even the sheep are in the shade.


To get to the track, we first have to cross a river using a rather dodgy suspension bridge with a wooden deck.  I’m not real comfortable with this, so I cross as quickly as I can.  The swinging motion makes me a bit sick if I stop.  Better to just get it over with!

Shortly after starting up the trail, we quickly realize that Erica is a MUCH faster hiker than us.  We agree to separate and meet back in the parking lot at a set time.  In moments, she’s picked up the pace is out of sight.

It’s a bit steeper that we’d expected, but it quickly settles down in a very comfortable hike.  A very nice forest, nearly tropical is on our right side for most of the way up.  The path is quite narrow in places and sometimes we step off the side of the trail to let others pass.  It’s quite steep and the drop on our left to the river is quite nasty.  You definitely want to choose your steps wisely.  I wouldn’t bring a dog or small child on this track.  The slope is so steep that the forest is gradually sliding into the river.  There are several places where you can tell the old section of trail fell away and the new one just custs up the hill around it.  One section has been completely washed away (see the photo!)

We see a sign:  “No stopping, next 30 meters.”  Okay….what the ??  As we come around a corner, it’s obvious WHY.  There a massive boulder sticking out from the side of the hill.  All the ground around it has washed away and it’s left balancing there.  Trees still row on top of it.  It looks secure enough….  The trail goes right UNDER it.  One day, the rock *will* come down the hill.  I wouldn’t want to be there.

About 2 hours into the hike, a group going the other way stops us and asks: “Are you Alina?”  Yes, my wife replies.  “There’s a note for you on the ground up there.”  We thank them and carry on.  Sure enough, a few minutes later we find the note that Erica has left for us.  She wants us to do the entire trail, instead of the shortened version.  “It’s TOTALLY worth it” she writes.  We’ll find her waiting at a clearing up ahead.  No choice now.  Off we go!

The next section of trail turns into the forest.  We can still hear the water from the raging river, but the green surrounding are beautiful.  There’s a gentle wind, which is good.  That means no sandflies!  We press on, and in about 30 minutes arrive at the clearing.  WOW.  What a view!  Up above is the Rob Roy Glacier and the many (MANY) streams the melt water creates as it comes down the mountain.

Be sure to click on this to view it FULL SIZE, it’s the largest Panorama I’ve ever created.

(TECHNICAL NOTES:  The original image is composed of 54 individual shots, 16MP each.  After combining it’s a 750MP image,   26385 X 9969.  I’ve had to scale it down to fit it here.  Lens flare from the sun screwed up the sky pretty badly.  I photoshopped it out and replaced it with a totally fake one.  Each frame had to be manually edited to remove sun spots before merging.  If I’d only used a lens hood!!!!!  I’ve also used a single-image HDR effect on this, to bring out the details of the rocks that would otherwise be lost.)

Erica is there enjoying the sun and talking with some other hikers.  Alina and I break out some snacks and sit for a while enjoying the view and rehydrating.  I wander off to take the picture (above).  Sadly I don’t have right gear for the job.  But I think it turned out OK.

I consider myself pretty lucky when I find a portable toilet (ok, a small structure covering a hold in the ground.)  Didn’t expect to find one way up here!  On the way back down the trail, I stop several times to take pictures of the raging river.  You can see the power of the river as it’s pushing trees and even boulders down with it.  If you were to fall in, it wouldn’t be a fun ride.  But it makes for good pictures!

As always, the trek down the hill takes much less time than going up and before we know it we’re crossing the suspension bridge again.  This time I made a video:


Shortly after that, we’re back at the car.  It’s been a great day.  No major bug bites.  No sunburn.  Probably my best day hiking in quite some time.  If you get the chance to hike this route, DO IT!

Be sure to check out my other posts from New Zealand:  Rob Roy GlacierAvalanche Peak (via Scott’s Track)Forests of Southern New ZealandThe BIG Surprise, Lake Tekapo Observatory Hike and many many more!  Click these links or browse through the ‘Categories’ at the top of each page.
[UPDATE:  It’s been well over a year since I posted this article.  Looking at the pictures I can easily see how much better my Photoshop skills are now, compared to then.  Maybe one day I’ll have to revisit this gallery and do some colour correcting!]
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