An epic 80km journey traversing through mountains, forest and alongside rushing streams. An advanced - extreme track, it requires a high level of skill.
Travel to the heart of Nelson Lakes National Park on the Travers Sabine Circuit. No two days will the same as you encounter massive mountains, an alpine pass and clear rushing streams. With the Rotoiti Nature Recovery Project in operation nearby, it’s common to see birds like robins, bellbirds and fantails. Often the tiny rifleman can be heard before it’s seen.
On Day 1, the track wanders through forest and crosses several small streams and shingle screes. Small beaches dotted along the way offer picnicking opportunities and mountain views. At the head of Lake Rotoiti, the grassy flast of the lower Travers Valley greet you. Lakehead Hut is 15 minutes from the jetty.
From Lakehead or Coldwater Huts head up the Travers River flats through forest and clearings. After 1.5 hrs of easy walking you'll reach a swing bridge beyond which the track continues on the west bank of the Travers River. Soon the valley narrows and walking becomes more varied alternating between forested terraces and grassy river flats. Mt Travers can be glimpsed as the track nears Hopeless Creek. Not too long after that, you'll reach John Tait Hut.
Begin the day with a steep climb leaving the river and its gorge below. Cross several screes and eventually the Travers River via a short bridge. From here the forest is noticeably stunted and the track, although steep again, offers views of the looming mountains. Finally the track levels, emerging from the trees onto an extensive, tussock-covered flat where Upper Travers Hut is nestled at the base of Mount Travers.
The Travers Saddle is an alpine pass requiring an ice axe and crampons in winter, well into spring too. Be prepared for sudden weather changes. The Sabine side of the saddle in particular is exposed to avalanches. Near Upper Travers Hut, the track route is marked by snow poles until the bushline on the Sabine side.
Cross the Travers River near the hut and follow the poles into dense alpine shrubs. The track then steepens and zigzags up a scree slope before continuing more gently to the saddle where you can experience panoramic views. It takes approximately 1 hr 30 mins to reach the saddle from the hut.
The track then descends, crosses tussock and scree, briefly enters beech forest before emerging into a steep gully. Descend by zigzagging to the valley floor where the track begins again and the walking becomes easier.
The day begins wth a swing bridge crossing. The track sidles above the river and crosses 3 long open flats.
Leave the river where it enters a gorge in the lower valley. Climb steeply, then descend again, rejoining the deep river at a bridge across a narrow cleft. Easy walking leads to Sabine Hut with its wide views of Lake Rotoroa. From Sabine Hut there are 3 ways to finish the tramp. The easier tramping option is via Speargrass Hut and the Speargrass Valley. The more difficult is the Lake Rotoroa Route. The last option is to take the Rotoroa Water Taxi.
Start your day with travelling beside a lake and then side in and out of several small valleys and through delicate wetlands. Here you'll notice the distinctively conical kaikawaka (or New Zealand cedar tree) with its dark foliage and often twisted trunk.
After 5 hours, the track reaches Speargrass Saddle, then it desends to a clearing and Speargrass Hut. Cross the bridge, enter the forest, and follow the well graded track until you reach the carpark overlooking Lake Rotoiti.
A series of DOC huts are dotted along the track. To book a hut, contact the Nelson Lakes Visitor Centre.
St Arnaud is close to the start and end locations and offers several accommodation options. See what's available here. Alternatively you could travel for another 1 hr 30 mins to Nelson or Blenheim.
A specialist tour operator can help with bringing your walking experience to life. They can also help with safety tips on this advanced walk. Contact the experts at Southern Wilderness.