French Ridge hutIntermediate - Experienced
Submitted by Rachel Bridgewater and James Brewer
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Back country - remote
Out and Back
Native bushRiversideOpen farmlandsOpen tussock/grasslandsOpen ridges/tops
Intermediate - Experienced
Not Suitable (Slow)
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Start at Raspberry Creekcarpark (toilet and water there). The first 10km to Aspiring hut covers mostly flat grassy farmland over a four wheel drive track beside the river.
Beyond Aspiring hut carry on up the West Matukituki Track which enters bush (awesome nz native beech) for a few kms before reaching a large grassy area (Shovel flat) and, further along, Pearl flat. From here, you can either ford the river (depending on whether its safe to do so) or cross the Liverpool Stream swingbridge a little further upriver. If you take the latter option you then make your way back down the true left of the river until you will see the DoC sign to head up the French Ridge track.
After crossing from Pearl Flat, the track (signposted) enters the bush and climbs steeply (this section of climbing before you hit the subalpine section is a very steep and technical, including x2 very short rope sections to help you get up). You will leave the bush line eventually and see a clear ridge that leads to the hut - just be wary of the cliff/bluffs as the track makes it way on top of these. Just above the bush line you may encounter snow depending on the weather so be prepared for mountain and snow conditions (regardless of time of year) and check the weather before you go.
Return the way you came. Make sure you check out the toilet at French Ridge hut.
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Features of interest
Look out for the Bonar Glacier and Mount Aspiring
Make Up of Run
Technical Single Track: 10%
Moderate Single Track: 10%
Easy Single Track: 20%
Farm Road / 4WD Track: 50%
Car park at Raspberry Creek at the very end of Wanaka - Mt Aspiring Road.
The last 35k is gravel and can get rough at times, but usually no problem in a 2WD.
There are also several fords to cross - these are normally no problem but can cause access issues after heavy rain.
Plenty of free parking spaces at Raspberry Creek carpark.
The only place that could be easy to take a wrong turn would be figuring out where to cross the river (if you choose to do so and the conditions are safe for a river crossing) at Pearl flat. However, once you cross the river, the track leading into the bush and start of climb was well signposted.
Waterproof leggings, Thermal leggings, Lightweight fleece top, Long-sleeved thermal top, Seam-sealed waterproof jacket, Gloves, Beanie/thermal headwear, Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), Whistle, First aid kit, Extra food for emergencies, Survival bag, Cellphone, Map, Headtorch and spare batteries, Crampons / microspikes (for winter conditions), Gaiters.
You can fill up with water at Aspiring hut (9-10km) or at French ridge hut at the top of the climb. Any streams upriver of Aspiring Hut are also good to drink from.
Streams can be more fast flowing and full in spring conditions due to snow melt or after heavy rainfall. Above the bush line you are entering subalpine conditions and into the winter, snow. Be prepared to turn around. High winds also can be an issue. Check the weather before you go and be well prepared.
Take care of the bluffs to the side of the trail above the bush line. Although there is a wide route and it's fairly safe, you should take extreme care (or turn around) in high winds.
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