Are we there yet? Where is French Ridge Hut?!?! I remember clearly that the distance marker and signboard at Pearl Flat reads “French Ridge Hut –> 3 hr” after the river crossing, and we are now 3.5 hours into the hike and I still do not spot the bright red French Ridge Hut. The last 3.5 hours was sheer torture. The only consolation I had was the beautiful mountain backdrop behind us once we got high enough and we had a clear view of the red Liverpool Hut standing strikingly across the Matukituki Valley. This was definitely a full body workout. This section of the trail constantly required me to grab on big fat roots and branches of trees to hoist myself up the steep muddy terrain in the jungle with high-steps. And it definitely did not help that we had full intention to camp in the valley for this 4 Days 3 Nights trek, so we were carrying tents and food supply in our heavy backpacks.
I was trudging step by step with my face down, trying to avoid the strong glares from the hot sun. My perspiration was also washing off the sunblock that I had diligently applied in the tent this morning.
“Come on! I see the toilet!”, Patrick, my fiance, hollered loudly.
I peered up and squinted my eyes against the blinding sun, and there it is. The STRIKING RED TOILET. I have never been so happy to see a toilet in my life! My whole body is aching, but I am so glad we finally made it!
Finally, after what seems like eternity, we hear chattering in the distance, and we can see the toilet and the striking red French Ridge Hut! We are totally thrilled!
A Guide to Hiking to French Ridge Hut (and Beyond)
Located in the Matukituki Valley area and Mount Aspiring National Park in the Otago region (near Wanaka), the French Ridge Track is deemed as an advanced track that is 16.2km long one way, and you will return via the same track. Typically, most people would attempt this over 3 days:
Day 1 – Raspberry Creek car park to Aspiring Hut
Day 2 – Aspiring Hut to Liverpool Hut or French Ridge Hut
Day 3 – Liverpool Hut / French Ridge Hut to Raspberry Creek car park
Patrick and I always enjoyed doing these treks in a slightly different way, and this time round, we decided to do just that. Make this a camping trip and spend one more day in the wilderness and do a day hike around French Ridge Hut.
This section of the track is relatively flat, and the biggest challenge you face is probably the hot sun and a couple of small water streams that you will encounter along the track, but if you have the agility to jump from rocks to rocks, your shoes will be safe from getting wet!
The Aspiring Hut is gorgeous! This is a New Zealand Alpine Club hut, and sleeps 29 pax, and is definitely one of the better-equipped hut with facilities such as flush toilets. We took a short snack break before pushing on towards Pearl Flat to find a decent camp spot for the night.
Today had been a relatively easy day, with approximately 4 hours of walking. And… decision has been made. We are sleeping here tonight! What more can one ask for? Snow-capped peak and glacier view, and clean water streams for cooking. So we dropped our backpacks to explore the area and to see how close we can get to the glacier waterfall!
The moon is peering out as the sun sets. Better get the tent set up before the whole valley is covered behind the shadows of the mountains and we lose light and warmth.
It had been a cold night! We woke up with frost on our tent, and we were just waiting for the sun to hit our tent so we get motivated to get out of our sleeping bags and enjoy the view with a cup of hot tea in our hands!
We could see hikers making their way towards Liverpool / French Ridge Hut, as you definitely want to get there earlier as you are unable to make bookings, and is on a first come first served basis. You definitely do not want to reach there late and without a bed for tonight in the hut if you do not have a tent.
We got to the ice cold river crossing at Pearl Flat and this is the intersection where one will choose to go towards Liverpool Hut or French Ridge Hut. From here on, it will be a painful hike through the steep muddy terrain where the roots and branches would become your best friend. You will be hugging them non-stop along the way!
Finally above the treeline but where is the hut?
We made it! But we are not done till we find the perfect campspot for the night. There were lots of bivouac shelters (or bivvy / bivy) made out of rocks that looks really decent! But unfortunately our tent was too big for that.
It is known that French Ridge Hut has some of the best sunset viewing spots. After our dinner feast of tomato sauce meatballs, is time to let our eyes have a feast too.
Woke up to the sounds of Keas flying and chirping outside our tents. We were told that Keas are extremely curious birds and are especially attracted to bright coloured items. Hence, to avoid having our orange tents drawing too much attention to these beautiful birds, we dismantled our tents and left them in the hut before we start our day hike up beyond the French Ridge Hut to get a better view of Mount French and the Quarterdeck Pass.
Followed some occasional cairns along the way and finally getting closer to the glacier and snow!
After some hours of fun exploration, we start heading back towards the hut.
Got back to the hut and as the weather forecast is calling for rain the next day, we decided to head towards Pearl Flat to camp so that it would be a shorter hike out to the car park before it rains on us. Right after lunch, we started making our way down.
It was still tough hiking down the steep terrain but it was definitely more manageable than before.
Here’s our camping spot at Pearl Flat!
To avoid getting caught in the rain which was predicted in the afternoon, we had an early start towards the trail head. Beautiful and cool day out!
It had been an epic 4 Days 3 Nights adventure camping out on this track! It may have challenged me physically and mentally, but it was so rewarding and I would definitely go back for more. For more blogs on our adventure in New Zealand, check it out here!
Looking for unique experiences that does not follow a typical itinerary, is an off the beaten path trip that is not too crowded? Our New Zealand treks and glacier exploration trips in this region might be the perfect fit for you. For more information, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.