Matukituki Cascade Saddle Dart EpicExperienced
Submitted by Sofia Peters
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Back country - remote
Point to Point (one way)
Native bushOpen tussock/grasslandsOpen ridges/tops
Not Suitable (Slow)
Fastest Known Times (FKTs)
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Starting from Raspberry Flat Carpark, find the DOC signs for the trailhead to Aspiring Hut. Enjoy some nice easy valley running for approximately 10km into Aspiring Hut to get the blood flowing.
At Aspiring Hut, locate the trailhead for the Cascade Saddle Track in the beech trees behind the hut. The track is signposted from Aspiring Hut and climbs steadily up through mixed beech forest.
Above the bushline, the track becomes a route and is marked with orange poles. It follows a steep snow grass and tussock ridge with some rocky outcrops and ledges to negotiate.
From the bushline, the route is narrow, steep, and very exposed - you will need your hands to climb. The route reaches the pylon at the top of the ridge (1835 m) via a steep and narrow gully that holds snow for much of the year.
After the pylon follow the poles down to Cascade Creek, and cross it to the easy slopes and flats leading to Cascade Saddle (1524 m). The route to the Dart valley veers off to the left, just before you reach Cascade Saddle. Follow the orange poles along the ridge, then the rock cairns down the steep and unstable slopes down to the valley floor and lateral moraines of the Dart Glacier.
The traverse from the ridge to the valley floor is above 1500 metres and very exposed to the weather.
Stay on the true left bank of the Dart River/Te Awa Whakatipu – the left side looking down river. You will need to ford several side streams. The water level rises quickly with either rain or afternoon snow melt, take care in particular with streams further down the valley, close to Dart Hut.
Slightly upstream from the confluence of the Dart and Snowy Creek, a bridge over the creek leads to Dart Hut.
From Dart Hut, follow the track down Dart Valley through beech forest and across some exposed grassy flats to Daleys Flat Hut. From here, it's a cruisy undulating 16km home through more beautiful beech forest to the end of the trail at the carpark at Chinamans Bluff.
Features of interest
Stunning panoramic views of Mt Aspiring, Mt Barff, and other surrounding peaks on the climb up and over Cascade Saddle. Views of Dart Glacier and the Dart River down Dart Valley.
Make Up of Run
Untracked / Route only: 16%
Technical Single Track: 16%
Moderate Single Track: 16%
Easy Single Track: 36%
Farm Road / 4WD Track: 16%
The following trails overlap with this run to some degree. You may wish to combine them but please note that to qualify for FKTs on these runs you should record a separate Strava activity for each
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The trailhead starts at Raspberry Flat Carpark. Follow the track up the West Matukituki Valley.
There is plenty of parking available at Raspberry Flat Carpark, which is about a 1.5 hour drive from Wanaka. This is a popular spot for trampers, day hikers, and mountaineers accessing Rob Roy Glacier, French Ridge and Liverpool Huts, and Mt Aspiring and the surrounding peaks; as such, the carpark can be pretty full so best to arrive early. Overnight parking is allowed and seems relatively safe. Flush toilets are also available at the carpark.
From Dart Hut, make sure you take the track that continues down the Dart River towards Daleys Flat Hut. DO NOT TAKE THE TRACK UP TO REES SADDLE.
Orange markers and poles are consistent throughout the Cascade Saddle route, look for them.
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, Compass, Map, Headtorch and spare batteries, Crampons / microspikes (for winter conditions).
Plenty of water is available at huts and stream crossings. Take a decent-sized bladder and fill up at each hut (Aspiring, Dart, and Daleys Flat).
Cascade Saddle Route is extremely hazardous in wet conditions and can be very slippery. It can also hold snow for much of the year, even during summer months; educate yourself on the current conditions, be prepared to assess the risks for yourself, bring the appropriate equipment, and be prepared to turn around if conditions aren't favourable. The saddle is also exposed to high winds and cold temperatures throughout the year.
Stream crossings along the route can also present hazards during or after periods of heavy rain or snowmelt.
From DOC: "If snow is present [on the Cascade Saddle route], do not proceed without an ice axe and crampons and the skills to use them - slipping can mean falling several hundred metres off the cliffs."
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See other runs nearby:
Motatapu River Track
Rock Peak Track
Deans Bank Loop
Minaret Burn Track (short)
Wanaka Skyline Trail
Fern Burn Hut
Upper Clutha River Loop
Rob Roy Glacier Track
Motatapu Track - Full Monty
Wanaka LRMI (Lake, River, Mt. Iron)
Rock of Ages
Run Rabbit Run
Luggate to Albert Town
Cardrona to Meg Hut
Jack Hall's Saddle
Little Criffel from the Larches
Mt Iron Loop
Boundary Creek Track
Long Gully Loop
Hawea River Track
High on Hikuwai
French Ridge hut
Little Criffle A to B
Lindis Peak Track
Mt Pisa via Kirtle Burn Track
Butterfields Wetlands Loop