Brewster Glacier & Point 2023m, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ

Magnificent views on this long day walk to Brewster Glacier, its terminal lakes, and an unnamed peak at 2023m.

Brewster Glacier & Point 2023m, Mt Aspiring National Park

I had visited Brewster Hut twice before, and on one of those occasions I went beyond the hut for views east. For some reason though I had not seriously considered visiting Brewster Glacier and its terminal lake, though I know now that this is the main prize for day-walkers in the area. The proximity of the hut means quite a few others will join you, but we got some solitude by also visiting the unnamed peak at 2023m, between Mt Brewster (2516m) and Mt Armstrong (2174m). It’s a high quality walk from start to finish, with beautiful beech forest, lovely alpine flowers in summer, and spectacular and ever changing views for as long as you are above the bushline.

You can also climb Mt Armstrong to bag a peak, but it’s a long walk if you also visit the glacier, and we had to wait too long for the weather to clear. Visiting point 2023m actually gets you views of Mt Armstrong, and still excellent views of the surrounding area. This was my first time to visit a glacier, so this tramp held novelty value for me as well. Track notes at the end.

Brewster Glacier & Point 2023m: The Scenery

Brewster Glacier & Point 2023m, Mt Aspiring National Park
Beautiful forest on the lower slopes.
Brewster Glacier & Point 2023m, Mt Aspiring National Park
Interesting mushrooms about.

Brewster Glacier & Point 2023m, Mt Aspiring National Park

Brewster Glacier & Point 2023m, Mt Aspiring National Park
Very mossy.
Brewster Glacier & Point 2023m, Mt Aspiring National Park
Just above the bushline. These views soon disappeared until the weather cleared later in the day.
Brewster Glacier & Point 2023m, Mt Aspiring National Park
Attractive spear grass.
Brewster Glacier & Point 2023m, Mt Aspiring National Park
Top Heavy (2076m) was to disappear into cloud for most of the day.
Brewster Glacier & Point 2023m, Mt Aspiring National Park
One of my attempts at an artistic shot. Lot’s of mist and no views for an hour or two.
Brewster Glacier & Point 2023m, Mt Aspiring National Park
Our first look at the glacier lakes. I would have been reasonably happy with this, but as it cleared the full majesty of the area became apparent.
Brewster Glacier & Point 2023m, Mt Aspiring National Park
It began to clear so we stuck around and waited. This was one of the few shots I got of Top Heavy, which I think may have been named ironically.
Brewster Glacier & Point 2023m, Mt Aspiring National Park
Mt Brewster (2516m) and its glacier.
Brewster Glacier & Point 2023m, Mt Aspiring National Park
Sophia posing in front of the glacier terminal. I heard some people swam in this water. Brrrrr.
Brewster Glacier & Point 2023m, Mt Aspiring National Park
Quite ethereal.

Brewster Glacier & Point 2023m, Mt Aspiring National Park Brewster Glacier & Point 2023m, Mt Aspiring National Park Brewster Glacier & Point 2023m, Mt Aspiring National Park

Brewster Glacier & Point 2023m, Mt Aspiring National Park
It looks a bit scary, but you have to climb down this to get to the glacier and lakes. You can see my wife Sophia on her way back up roughly centre. Children managed it so you can too!
Brewster Glacier & Point 2023m, Mt Aspiring National Park
The money shot for the day. I couldn’t quite get a clear shot of Top Heavy (left) with Mt Brewster (right) at the same time. Top Heavy was obscured for much of the day.

A few shots from 2023m…

Brewster Glacier & Point 2023m, Mt Aspiring National Park
A panorama east from 2023m.
Brewster Glacier & Point 2023m, Mt Aspiring National Park
Looking south-east from 2023m. The Upper Makarora Valley down there.
Brewster Glacier & Point 2023m, Mt Aspiring National Park
Mt Armstrong (2174m) was in cloud for much of the day, so I didn’t mind running out of time to climb it. I got this shot from 2023m in one of the clear moments.
Brewster Glacier & Point 2023m, Mt Aspiring National Park
A panorama south with Mt Armstrong to the right.

And now on our way back…

Brewster Glacier & Point 2023m, Mt Aspiring National Park

Brewster Glacier & Point 2023m, Mt Aspiring National Park
Returning from 2023m. Mt Armstrong up there.
Brewster Glacier & Point 2023m, Mt Aspiring National Park
Returning back to the main route.
Brewster Glacier & Point 2023m, Mt Aspiring National Park
Sophia looking west on our second time in the area. As you can see the weather was glorious, so it’s a shame my photography was a bit average back then. We didn’t get these views until the early evening on the day we visited the glacier, and by then the sun was already going down, making it hard to capture this west facing scene.

Brewster Glacier & Point 2023m, Mt Aspiring National Park

Brewster Glacier & Point 2023m, Mt Aspiring National Park
A Mt Cook Lily flower, actually the world’s largest buttercup.
Brewster Glacier & Point 2023m, Mt Aspiring National Park
We slipped a lot on sometimes tricky terrain and my wife Sophia got injured twice.
Brewster Glacier & Point 2023m, Mt Aspiring National Park
On our way back down. You can see Brewster Hut down there.

Brewster Glacier & Point 2023m, Mt Aspiring National Park

Brewster Glacier & Point 2023m, Mt Aspiring National Park
We missed these views on the way up due to low cloud.
Brewster Glacier & Point 2023m, Mt Aspiring National Park
My wife Sophia on the very end of the ridge before we began our descent back into the forest.
Brewster Glacier & Point 2023m, Mt Aspiring National Park
I’ve found it hard to capture what it feels like to descend through beech forest at the end of a long day, as the sun goes down through the trees turning everything golden. I think this time I succeeded.
Brewster Glacier & Point 2023m, Mt Aspiring National Park
A very funky tree.


Track Notes

Brewster Glacier & Point 2023m, Mt Aspiring National Park
There’s a marked track to Brewster Hut, then a sometimes obvious but sometimes vague impact track and cairns (then only cairns) that lead to the glacier and lakes. There is no marked route to 2023m but it was easy enough in good visibility. My red line is only approximate. 

There’s a marked track to Brewster Hut, then a sometimes obvious but sometimes vague impact track and cairns (then only cairns) that lead to the glacier and lakes. I’m not sure how accurate my red line is, but we found our way in low visibility and so you should be okay to follow the route.

To visit the glacier and lakes requires a scramble down through rocky terrain, but I think most experienced trampers will manage this. We saw a party with pre-teens in it that managed to get down.

Visibility was good when we visited 2023m, and that was straightforward over rocks and some remnant snow, although there is no marked route. Try not to fall off cliffs to the south-east.

The terrain past the hut can sometimes be tricky, especially when the impact track runs out and you are following sometimes confusing cairns. My wife Sophia slipped and injured herself twice, taking home some bruises on what was her birthday, and I slipped a few times as well. It’ll be a very long day, especially if you try to summit Mt Armstrong. A bit more manageable if you just visit the glacier and return. You can always stay at Brewster Hut of course.

The walk starts at the Fantail Falls car park, and you have to ford the frigid Haast River right away, so carry your boots from the start. We wore surf shoes and hid them in the bush for our return. Much less painful than walking over pebbles in the river bed as we had done before.

There’s info on the Brewster Track (as far as the hut) on the DOC Website.

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

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