Sugarloaf Pass to Point 1290m, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ

Really spectacular views of mountains and valleys on this lesser known walk in Mt Aspiring National Park, including a nice side angle of Mt Earnslaw at 2830m of elevation.

Sugarloaf Pass to Point 1290m, Mt Aspiring NP

We did this walk for the first time on about our seventh trip to New Zealand, and I can’t understand how it had remained under our radar for so long. After a moderate amount of time in very atmospheric beech forest, the walk emerges above the tree line to a saddle for the first views of mountains and valleys in Mt Aspiring National Park. But the views get really spectacular when you take a right turn off-track up to point 1290m. There are views of rugged mountains in various directions, including a great angle on Mt Earnslaw, which peaks at 2830m of elevation. There’s about 800m change in elevation. We also did this walk in winter 2019, when the scenery was even more spectacular, and I have intermingled the photos together, so don’t be confused by the changing seasons!

Sugarloaf Pass to pt. 1290m, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ
Very cold and frosty at the start of the walk in winter 2019. This is the car park for the Routeburn Track.

Track Notes

Sugarloaf Pass to pt. 1290m, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ
When you leave Sugarloaf Pass its a steep climb through tussock to a plateau, then continue on for fabulous views at point 1290m or thereabouts.

The walk starts at the beginning of the famous Routeburn Track, which we’ve done sections of a few times, but after a short while you take a right turn at a signposted junction, and ascend steeply up through beech forest. Continue past the treeline to a saddle, then ascend steeply off-track to the right until it levels out, then a little further along you reach a minor peak at 1290m of elevation. Behold the views.

We returned the way we came, but the track continues on at the saddle and can be done as a long day circuit back to the road leading to the Routeburn car park. However to do this circuit you’ll want to park your car somewhere near the Lake Sylvan turnoff, and maybe hitch a lift down to the Routeburn car park, or else park two cars at both points to avoid a longish walk along the road.

Sugarloaf Pass to Point 1290m: The Scenery

Sugarloaf Pass to Point 1290m, Mt Aspiring NP
Climbing steeply through beech forest after turning off the Routeburn Track.
Sugarloaf Pass to Point 1290m, Mt Aspiring NP
Fungus.
Sugarloaf Pass to pt. 1290m, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ
Mossy.
Sugarloaf Pass to pt. 1290m, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ
This kea followed us for 5 or 10 minutes, and made for an accommodating subject.
Sugarloaf Pass to pt. 1290m, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ
That kea looking a little bit fearsome, but was in fact quite friendly.
Sugarloaf Pass to pt. 1290m, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ
A South Island Robin. This shot makes me look like a competent wildlife photographer, but was in fact taken at point blank range with my telephoto lens.
Sugarloaf Pass to pt. 1290m, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ
A very frosty section crossing a creek (winter 2019).
Sugarloaf Pass to Point 1290m, Mt Aspiring NP
I may have added a bit too much colour saturation to this photo, but the rocks were pretty purple.
Sugarloaf Pass to pt. 1290m, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ
A picturesque spot in the beech forest.

Sugarloaf Pass to pt. 1290m, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ Sugarloaf Pass to pt. 1290m, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ Sugarloaf Pass to pt. 1290m, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ

Sugarloaf Pass to Point 1290m, Mt Aspiring NP
Above the treeline looking back towards Lake Wakatipu.

Some winter shots here…

Sugarloaf Pass to pt. 1290m, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ
A frosty and snowy looking saddle at the high point of Sugarloaf Pass. From here it is a steep but easy enough climb through tussock to point 1290m.
Sugarloaf Pass to pt. 1290m, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ
The Rockburn Valley.
Sugarloaf Pass to pt. 1290m, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ
Part of the Humboldt Mountains that line the Routeburn Track, which is down in the valley.
Sugarloaf Pass to pt. 1290m, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ
The Humboldt Mountains, and Rockburn Valley far right.
Sugarloaf Pass to pt. 1290m, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ
Lots of compression on this one meant I could use the grand vertical rock face of Mt Earnslaw as backdrop to my wife.

A couple more summer shots…

Sugarloaf Pass to Point 1290m, Mt Aspiring NP
A panorama looking back towards Lake Wakatipu.
Sugarloaf Pass to Point 1290m, Mt Aspiring NP
Mt Earnslaw (2830m). The Earnslaw Glacier is on the other side. We visited that a year and a half before – very impressive. I wanted to get the tarn in shot because they remind me of the Lake District in England where I lived from about 3 months to 4.5 years old, and where I did my first regular walking (also in North Wales).

Back to winter…

Sugarloaf Pass to pt. 1290m, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ
Sophia at point 1290m.
Sugarloaf Pass to pt. 1290m, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ
Mt Earnslaw / Pikirakatahi and a frozen tarn. Just proving it was cold, if not all that snowy.
Sugarloaf Pass to pt. 1290m, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ
A section of the Humboldt Mountains. Possibly Momus (2148m) up there.
Sugarloaf Pass to pt. 1290m, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ
Mountains lining the Routeburn Track, which is down in the valley.
Sugarloaf Pass to pt. 1290m, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ
Mt Earnslaw / Pikirakatahi (2830m)
Sugarloaf Pass to pt. 1290m, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ
Mt Earnslaw / Pikirakatahi (2830m)
Sugarloaf Pass to pt. 1290m, Mt Aspiring National Park NZ
I liked this rather chilly looking scene.

And finally, two more summer shots…

Sugarloaf Pass to Point 1290m, Mt Aspiring NP

Sugarloaf Pass to Point 1290m, Mt Aspiring NP
Sophia looking towards the mountains that skirt the first section of the Routeburn Track, which is in the valley below.

 

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

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