Rees-Dart-Track (New Zealand)

The diversified Rees-Dart hike on the South Island of New Zealand leads through forest, swamp and mountain. On the highest point, the Rees saddle at 1,430 meters, it can be quite cool in the late summer. The route includes some river crossings, which will not leave your feet dry. The view from the Cascade Saddle is unforgettable.


New Zealand - Rees Dart Track
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Back to Oceania

Day 1 Day 2 Day 3


Mar. 04, 2011 – Mar. 06, 2011


Day 1, Muddy Creek – Rock Shelter Hut, 12 miles:
To start the trek at Muddy Creek, I’ll leave Glenorchy with a jeep. There are already two other hikers, Kevin and Christen from the United States, who are also starting on the hike. My book about Tramping in New Zealand (Tramping is the New Zealand word for hiking) warns us that on the first day river crossings are imminent – what is meant by that, I realize shortly behind the park border.
Suddenly, flowing water stands between me and the continuation of the way. Unsuccessfully, I look for a shallow spot to cross. Using the “close your eyes and hope for the best” principle, I take off my shoes and socks half an hour later and walk into the water. I wade through the thigh-deep water to the other side, where I dry my feet and put on the shoes again. Meanwhile, I realize Kevin and Christen have found a way around the river.
As the water’s course takes a loop and crosses my path again, I doubt that this was the crossing described in the book. This time, I am equipped with self-assurance and a positive experience, so I pull off my shoes and throw them over my shoulder – I’m striking out through the blue wetness. Shortly thereafter, the current, which I have underestimated, makes me almost pay for this arrogance when I almost lose my balance. I manage to keep hold of my hiking boots just in time – I reach the other shore easily. Without boots the adventure would have been over already.
At the actual ford, I catch up to the two Americans. The route this time is only through ankle-deep water, which draws from me only a tired smile. The continuation of the way seems to lead over a green meadow, but as soon as I take my first steps, I feel my feet sinking in and the mud reaching my ankles. Welcome to the marsh … Here, all attempts to keep the shoes dry are impossible.
A final climb leads to the Rock Shelter Hut, where my favorite feature of New Zealand’s Backcountry huts awaits us: a stove. I am able to ignite an acceptable fire from the damp wood, which gives me some hope of drying out my shoes and socks. The Americans currently don’t have their own cooking utensils, which is why we share mine. The two left their belongings in a hotel in Christchurch, which was classified as in danger of collapsing after the severe earthquake some days ago.



Day 2: Rock Shelter Hat -Dart Hat, 10 km (+ Side Trip Cascade Saddle, 10 km one way):
Today I start early at 8.30 clock, since I have a long day to go. The Cascade Saddle seems to be the highlight of this hike – this is my goal for today. The narrow path begins with a rise to the Rees saddle. When I reached the top, I stretched out my hand and saw small white flakes landing on it, and a moment later thery dripped to the ground in liquid form. The combination of late-summer snow and my unfortunately still moist shoes cause an unpleasantly cold feeling.
I continue quickly, along a river, past grassy hills on one side and a thousand-ft-waterfall scenario on the other. The different green and brown tones, as well as the rushing of the water, create a pleasant and relaxed atmosphere. I reach the Dart-Hut now after 3.5 hours (depending on the weather conditions a 4-6 h hike should be planned). Here, I take off my little backpack with my water supply and after a short lunch break I take the road to the Cascade Saddle.
Once again, I cross a stream: with light baggage, I cross it by jumping over the stones in the water. Sometime later, after I have successfully and dryly arrived on the other side, I let my eyes wander: Like a painting, the scenario is composed of a river in the valley on the left and a rocky hill on the right. Straight ahead I recognize an icy glacier, in the direction in which I march.
After a right turn, a last ascent follows, before a phenomenal view opens into the valley. The day is completed by Keas, New Zealand birds, which are characterized by green plumage and their curiosity. If you leave your backpack unattended, you have to expect that it will be ransacked by the one-colored friends. As one of the two approaches the flight and spreads its wings, reddish and brownish tones appear on the underside. Back in the Dart Hut I look forward to my bed – after the 10-hour hike and 1,300 heights, I am at the end of my capability.



Day 3: Dart Hut -Chinamans Carpark, 24 km:
As only 3 of the 32 beds are occupied, I wake up good-humored. We learn from a ranger that this is not the general case: during the summer season, it is not uncommon to have up to 72 hikers sleeping here. When he explains to me the head-to-foot way of sleeping, I am vowing to myself to always take a tent with me from now on.
A well-developed path leads through some forests downhill to the Cattle Flat. The morning sun rays rise through ivy-grown trees and paint a fascinating picture. This is followed by a long level stretch with a view of the waterfalls and listening to the unique sounds of the New Zealand bird world. Without great effort, I reach the Daleys Flat Hat. Since it is not very late, I keep on going for the last few kilometers to the car park and am lucky that two other hikers are already waiting for a transport. By evening, I reach the campsite, where my van and a portion of spaghetti carbonara are waiting for me.


Summary:A beautiful and fascinating trek that is more challenging than it seems to be at first. The Cascade-Saddle should definitely be on your list when you do this hike because of the breathtaking views in the valley. A mixture of a little adventure and inner peace. In summer, it is worth taking a tent.