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8 Day Gillespie Pass + Rabbit Pass Traverse

This trip combines the Gillespie Pass Circuit and Rabbit Pass Alpine Traverse. Together, this route is widely regarded as New Zealand's hardest guided tramping traverse.

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December - April

Trip Overview

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The Gillespie-Rabbit Pass Alpine Traverse crosses Rabbit Pass and then follows the Gillespie Pass Circuit through Mount Aspiring National Park. Following the South Island’s Main Divide, this guided tramping tour features unspoilt forests, alpine meadows, huge waterfalls, and alpine lakes. Though this guided trek is challenging, there’s plenty of time along the way to enjoy the breathtaking alpine scenery. Accommodation is a combination of beautiful mountain huts and our private campsites.

Clients should be aware that this route requires extremely good fitness, balance, coordination, and a head for heights. Some of this route is off any prepared track so there are numerous unbridged and unavoidable side streams. This trek involves river crossings and steep rocky hillsides to scramble up and down.

8 Day Gillespie Pass + Rabbit Pass Traverse Itinerary

This is a sample itinerary and can change due to weather and other unforeseen circumstances. Please use it as a guide.
Day 1

Day 1: Arrival Day / Young Hut

Hike time: approx 6-7 hours | Km Traveled: 18 km
  • Arrive at our Wanaka office at 8:00am. Here, you meet your guide and do a complete gear check, as well as review the weather forecast. Any last minute items or equipment are assembled and loaded into our vehicle for the drive. You can leave any gear or valuables at our office.
  • We drive to the small village of Makarora, about 45 minutes away and board a jet boat up the Makarora River to the Young River confluence where the track begins.
  • We spend the first part of the day following the gentle incline of the Young River before taking on a steeper climb up through native bush.
  • After 6-7 hours and 18km of walking, we arrive at Young Hut, our base for the night.
Days 2 - 3

Day 2: Gillespie Pass Summit

Hike time: approx 6-8 hrs | Km Traveled: 12 km
  • After leaving Young Hut, we get above the treeline and head into a stunning basin, before a steep, long climb to Gillespie Pass at 1600m.
  • We then descend into Siberia Valley, finishing the day with an hour’s walk along the river flats to Siberia Hut for the night.
  • Day 2 is about 6-8 hours of walking, covering 12km

Day 3: Hike to Kerin Forks Hut

  • Hike time: Around 3-4 hours (based on client preference)
  • Km Traveled: 8 km depending on preference
  • We head downriver to Kerin Forks Hut at the confluence of the Siberia and Upper Wilkin Rivers.
  • We walk a gentle downhill grade for 6-8 hours (approx. 18km) along the south bank of the river. The track is surrounded by lush native bush with lots of ups and downs, as well as numerous river crossings.
  • We are resupplied by jet boat (veggies are back on the menu!) and stay at Kerin Forks Hut for the evening, enjoying the views of the great Wilkin River.
Days 4 - 6

Day 4: Hike to Top Forks Hut

Hike time: Around 7 hours | Km Traveled: 18km
  • Following the Wilkin River along the Wilkin Valley Track, we gradually rise until we reach Top Forks.
  • This area is truly wild, with outstanding native bush and hanging glaciers. The track alternates between forest and open river flats.
  • We cosy up around the wood-burning stove at Top Forks Hut, taking in the unbelievable views
  • Day 4 covers 18km, taking about 7 hours.

Day 5: Upper Wilkin Alpine Lakes

Hike time: Around 6 hours (based on client preference) | Km Traveled: 6-12 km depending on preference
  • We leave our packs behind for a day trip to the Upper Wilkin Alpine Lakes Lucidus and Castalia, along the Wilkin River North Branch (towards Newland Pass).
  • This track is rugged with plenty of stream crossings and boulder scrambling. Some may prefer a shorter day or even just a rest day to swim and take in the surroundings.
  • If the weather is good, your guide may decide it is of benefit to head over Rabbit Pass early on Day 5 rather than wait until Day 6. In this case, you may spend an extra day at Pickelhaub, Aspiring Camp or head out a day early.

Day 6: Rabbit Pass

Hike time: 9-11 hours | Km Traveled: 12 km
  • An early start gets us up to Waterfall Flat. It is not hard to imagine where it gets its name with torrents of water pouring of the surrounding Southern Alps cliffs. The improbable scramble up the Waterfall Face leads to Rabbit Pass. We clip you into a fixed hand line for 60 meters to give you confidence on the trickiest part of the route. A long descent through native herb gardens is a magical end to an exhilarating day. The evening ends at Pickelhaub Camp, which is an expedition type setup with tables and chairs with smaller 3-4 person tents to sleep in.
Day 1

Day 7: East Matukituki Valley

Hike time: 7-8 hours | Km Traveled: 13km

  • We wake to the sound of icefalls crashing down from towering Pickelhaub Mountain. We enjoy a leisurely breakfast before heading down the Upper East Matukituki Valley.
  • Even with no track, the going is easy through this isolated, yet scenic valley. Expect many unbridged river crossings (which can make this route impassable after heavy rain)
  • Once we come across the Bledisloe Gorge, the climbing begins again. From open river flats through ancient forest and up through alpine areas - this is a big climb and many find this more challenging than the technical Rabbit Pass.
  • We camp at our incomparable Aspiring Camp with the same comfortable set-up as the night before.

Day 8: Departure Day

Hike time: 5 hours | Km Traveled: 11km

  • It is the last day of the Rabbit Pass Alpine Guided Traverse and we all know what that means: pancakes, whipped cream and blueberry jam!
  • The trail down to the valley floor winds through tall beech forest with Mount Aspiring in sight. We cross a couple of 3-wire bridges over the East Matukituki River and Kitchner Stream (to keep things thrilling).
  • Gradually, the track opens up into farmland and we meet our waiting transport back to civilization and a hot shower.
Aspiring Guides

Route Information

Always on the ascent

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Our expertise guides adventurers to new heights, inspiring them to step beyond the everyday and embrace the challenges that will draw them back for more.

Stewards of tomorrow

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We instil stewardship in every generation, fostering respect for this taoka, this treasured place.

Champions of Safety

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Safety comes first, always. The best kind of adventure is knowing there’ll be a next one.

Practical Information

Course Inclusions

Trip Inclusions

Jet boat in and out of the mountains

Helicopter flight

Terrain fees

GST Included

New Zealand 15% goods and service tax

Technical equipment

Hut or tent accommodation

Hut or tent accommodation

Meals and snacks

Cooked meals and snacks for duration of trip


Transporation from Wanaka to and from the trekking location

Qualified guide

Qualified trekking guide (NZMGA, ATG or NZOIA Bush 1)

Equipment List

Summer weather is usually quite warm however, you will be in a remote alpine location and winter type conditions can happen any time of year in New Zealand. Required clothing can vary somewhat according to the time of year or the current weather.

While parts of your trip are hut based, some huts can’t be reserved and in some cases clients should expect to camp during peak times of the season. You will need to carry your own personal gear as well as some group fresh food. Most meal items, tents and utensils are stored at the huts and will not be required to be carried. Many people prefer to use their own sleeping bag, pad and backpack. We recommend an inflatable sleeping mat, 50+ litre backpack and 2 season sleeping bag graded to 0° C (and liner). Lighter is OK for mid-summer. On most days there are unavoidable river and stream crossings, so it is likely your boots will get wet and stay wet.

All food and utensils are supplied on the trip. Clients will be encouraged to provide their own backpack with clothing layers and trekking boots. Aspiring Guides can provide a sleeping bag if you require.

Frequently asked Questions

They’re there as you accomplish lifelong ambitions, reach new heights, and dig deep as you pursue the grittiest of adventure experiences. Overcome your limits, and discover the moments that lead to enduring achievement and pride of what you can accomplish with us.

What is included with the trip cost?

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Do I need a rental car?

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How do I get to Wanaka?

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Can I leave my extra bags and valuables with you while we are in the hills?

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Do I have to pay if the weather is bad for our trip?

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What if I don't fit in with the group ability or otherwise?

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What do we eat? I have a special diet, is this OK?

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Where is the Aspiring Guides located?

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Can I hire equipment through Aspiring Guides?

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Why should I get trip insurance for my trip with Aspiring Guides?

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Where do we meet for our trip?

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Planning your trip

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Choosing your trip length

New Zealand weather can be unpredictable and it is likely you will experience at least one weather day on your trip. We structure our trips as 3-7 days to ensure we’re setting you up for success.

Optimal trip lengths:

  • Glacier ski/climb trips: no less than 5 days
  • Rock climbing" 3-5 days
  • Ski Trips: 4-5 days
  • Trekking Trips: 3-6 days

When it comes to choosing your trip length for ascents or glacier trips, we recommend talking with our team and they will be able to recommend the best option for you depending on your skills, objectives, seasonality, and availability.

In New Zealand, the best plan is a flexible one.

Having a flexible plan might include a roll date on either side of your trip to shift if needed, or have flexi flights booked.

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Pre-Course Prep

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Getting to Wānaka

The easiest way to get to Wānaka is to fly into Queenstown airport and take one of the shuttles to Wānaka that run several times a day (1.5 hour drive).

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The shuttle company, Ritchies Taxis, are also available from KT Sightseeing and Yello if the shuttle schedules don't suit you can also look at Wanaka Transfers as a great option.

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Trip Insurance

It's always good to be prepared for any unforeseen incident. For any adventure activity or trip that is dependent on weather conditions, we HIGHLY recommend getting trip insurance.

We work closely with Global Rescue which offers great options for international as well as domestic clients for medical/accident coverage, trip interruptions or cancellations due to weather. There is also offer a "cancel for any reason" policy. Costs will typically range from $200-$700 depending on your trip length, cost and your age and trip insurance needs to be purchase within 20 days from first deposit/payment was made.

You can view the Global Rescue offerings here, or please feel free to source through your own providers.

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We recommend staying in Wānaka the night before your trip as we will have a gear check at the office the evening before then leave from our Wānaka office the morning of your trip.

Wānaka offers a vast range of options for your pre and post trip accommodation. It can be busy over the winter and summer season, so it is a good idea to book well in advance.

View Accommodation in Wānaka

We do have special arrangements with some Wānaka accommodation providers. Get in touch with us should you like some recommendations.

*For day hikes, we can provide pickup form your Wānaka accommodation if you need. Please get in touch with our team to let us know where you're staying if you would like a pickup.

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What our Customers say
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Hear directly from the adventurers who’ve joined us. Their stories of success and transformation highlight the extraordinary experiences that await you with Aspiring Guides.

Gaik, Australia

We use Aspiring Guide for the Gilliespie Pass and Lake Crucible. We have a wonderful time with our experience and very patience guide Emily, helping us to accomplish both the tough tracks. Highly recommended Aspiring Guide, very helpful and professional.

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Gordon, New Zealand

The experience lived up to my highest hopes. I have been looking at Black Peak for years from my lounge window thinking how cool would it be to get to the top of it one day.

Aspiring Guides helped me achieve that dream

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Laura, United States

9 of us traveled via helicopter..stayed at Siberia Hut, 3 days, 2 nights. Our guides, Frankie and Adam were top-notch. We had different abilities and all were accommodated. Last day we hiked down to the Wilkins River and jett-boated out to Makarora! Stunning views, amazing guides, great food, great fun! Highly recommend!

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Ed, Australia

My first time tramping in New Zealand ( and first multi-day trip after an absence of many years ). And so it was with a little trepidation, I turned  up  to the Aspiring Guides offices in Wanaka to start the 6 day Upper Wilkin valley and Gillespie pass trek in early March. To top it off, the weather forecast for the Makarora region was 63 mm rain on the first day; I began to wonder what I had signed up to. My doubts began to evaporate when I met our guide  (and other members of Aspiring Guides staff ). They were very professional and thorough in pre-departure checking and situation assessment. We got underway pretty much on schedule and without too many changes to our itinerary despite the inclement weather conditions.

Our fantastic guide, Grace (and Aspiring Guides planning ) looked after us very well, and took care of every detail on the trip. And despite, challenging nature of this trek, I felt completely at ease and confident in all the situations I encountered. The skill and attentiveness of our guide played a large part in this. The only part left then was to immerse in and enjoy this incredible part of the world and share it with my 2 fellow  trampers.

There were many fantastic memories on this trek, the ascent and descent of Gillespie pass in light snow conditions was one of them. The trek in the Upper Wilkin valley when the mountains opened up into a panorama as we rounded the corner, was another. Of course there was the unforgettable up and down climbing of the infamous "tree ladders",  a treat that awaits. And as a finale ( and bonus), we had the "airy" helicopter ride back to Makarora.

6 wonderful days of tramping in the Makarora region of the Aspiring National park came and went.  An outdoor experience that was so enjoyable, an experience I will not forget.  I highly recommend Aspiring Guides. Thank you Grace and Aspiring Guides.

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Kelsey, United States

We used Aspiring Guides during our honeymoon for a 4-day Gillespie Pass trek. As avid backpackers, it was such a luxury to have an experienced company handle all of the logistics. Our guide Frankie was knowledgeable not just about the terrain but about flora and fauna we passed, was fun to hike with, and cooked amazing meals at camp! Having a guide took all the stress and thinking out of our trip to where we could just enjoy being outdoors and exploring a new place.

HIGHLY recommend this incredible small business! We’d love to go back and book another trip with them.

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Matt, New Zealand

Great people who really love what they do. I've used them for three climbing trips and their guides are fantastic. Have always felt safe and have learnt so much. Very clever at adapting plans for challenging weather or conditions!

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Ryan, United States

We highly recommend Aspiring Guides!  They are an elite, top class company.

Aspiring Guides enabled my fiancé and I to see things previously impossible for people of our skill set.  Fiery sunrises seen from the top of the mighty Tasman Glacier, deep blue ice cathedrals within crevasses of the upper névé seen while hanging twenty feet from our guides self-made anchor, or endless views of the West Coast viewed from perilously steep mountains include just a few of our experiences with Aspiring Guides.But in the end we were most impacted by the people we met, and friends made. Ryan Colley was our guide - a consummate professional.  Initially, Ryan impressed me with his directness and ability to manage the itinerary within a tight weather window.  He was flexible enough for us to bump our dates ahead 3 days, which gave us a precious few sunny days in Mt. Cook NP.  Furthermore, Ryan monitored the weather closely and we were able to pull off a helicopter extraction as planned, with incoming weather looming. Furthermore, Ryan led us through terrain that pushed me to grow.  He did not miss a moment to teach, either by example, or by suggesting that we lead where appropriate.  When I found myself questioning whether the objective was too intimidating, Ryan was there to provide encouragement and settle the nerves.  He was an excellent lead guide and we came away sorry of only one thing - that we did not have more days on the mountain with him.As an added bonus - Ryan was a great cook!  We ate very well during our time with him.  Hospitality was clearly top of mind - he even made sure to find us lodging in the Mt. Cook NP after our itinerary with Aspiring Guides had come to an end.

Aspiring Guides is a well run, top class professional company.  Dan, who manages the office as well as guides in Antarctica, was willing to speak to me at length in the build up to our trip.  He was very generous with his time and provided good insights.  Victoria, the office administrator, was equally generous with her time.  She coordinated our last minute schedule change, which made all the difference.

I heartily encourage anyone, of any level of experience, to enlist Aspiring Guides to accomplish your objective.  They are an elite, top class organization.  They will do everything possible to make your dream objective come true.

Thank you AG!  We loved meeting you guys!  Wishing you happy days!

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Deanna, New Zealand

Can't rate this crew enough. Magic adventure overnight ski touring at Black Peak with Sarah and Deano. You beauties!

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Tim, Australia

I had an excellent ascent of Mt Aspiring with Aspiring Guides and my climbing guide Andrea. I was very happy on their introduction to mountaineering course a few years ago so chose Aspiring Guides for my first big ascent. Communication and preparation from the whole team was excellent in the lead up to the trip. This and flexibility in adapting to the weather made for a successful ascent. On the mountain Andrea was excellent in guiding me through the practicalities / skills required and supporting me when I struggled. Always safe, efficient and highly skilled I learnt a great deal from Andrea about everything from gear to techniques to mental approach. He calmly explained the appropriate technique for each situation as we transitioned and was encouraging with a gentle "just a little bit more" when I thought I couldn't go any further. This helped me get to the top and achieve a long term dream that was fuller and more satisfying than I could have hoped for.

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Jonathan, New Zealand

Brilliant Gillespie-Rabbit guided trip in Mt Aspiring National Park over the New Year. The logistics managed by Aspiring Guides was superb... enabling big adventures with mainly fresh and delicious food, without huge heavy packs. We had a small group with lots of laughs. Despite our wide experience we all learned heaps from our talented and chilled guide, Adam. His local knowledge and experience is superb especially around river-crossings, navigation and delicious cooking :). Thanks team!

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Graeme, New Zealand

Walked the upper Wilkins and Gillespie pass in Mount Aspiring National Park as part of a group of 3 men who wished they had taken up back country walking as younger men! We were guided by Pat Gray. We were lucky with weather and had an epic 6 days of walking in a special part of the world. Our guide Pat was very well organised and knowledgeable and we were confident we were always in safe hands - many thanks Pat you are an outstanding young man! Aspiring guides have the walking experience maximised for enjoyment with “stashs” along the way to minimise pack weight. The backcountry huts we stayed in are well appointed and the Siberia hut in particular has a stunning location and epic views. Backcountry walkers are a fun bunch, and the evenings are a great opportunity to sharpen card playing skillls. The helicopter flight in and jet boat ride out at beginning and end of our walk were icing on the cake! Many thanks to Pat and Aspiring guides for a wonderful adventure.

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Jamie, New Zealand

A truly life changing experience. I came away from the course with a thorough understanding of what is needed for me to move self-sufficiently in the mountains. This course has given me the confidence to continue the process of finding and climbing more technical routes. The structure of the course allowed me to build a solid base of knowledge by the process of repetition. Each day’s skills built on the last, slowly adding more complexity's as it became more familiar. Sooji is a fantastic guide. Her enthusiasm for all things climbing clearly shows. Sooji was very patient with all my questions and quickly got a feel for where I was at with my climbing and my goals. It was up to me how much information I wanted to absorb. I will forever use the skills I learned from this course in the mountains. Thank you Sooji and thank you Aspiring guides.

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Thomas, New Zealand

Epic adventure with Aspiring Guides. Will was a guru and relentless in his teaching. So much learnt over the 7 days and now time to put it into practice. Cheers, guys

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Nick, Australia

I have been on 4 trips with Aspiring Guides now, and every one has been excellent! Some have been for summits (eg. Tititea/Aspiring), and others for more skills learning and technical work. Most recently I spent 3 days ice climbing in the Remarkables (with some mixed climbing and show shoeing thrown in). The guide Dean was fantastic (as was Andrea who I've been with before). A perfect combination of attention to safety, making me feel confident, and stretching me out of my comfort zone.

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Tim, United States

My wife and I embarked on a 21-day adventure to New Zealand, dedicating a full day and two nights to the charming town of Wanaka. We had booked a private hiking tour in Mt. Aspiring National Park with Doug Beech, the knowledgeable owner of Aspiring Guides. Despite the challenging weather forecast for higher elevations and our own reservations about our physical readiness, Doug reassured us the evening before with his adaptability and alternative plans.

The next morning, we set off from our hotel in a new direction, guided by Doug’s expertise. It was reassuring to have a guide who could seamlessly adjust to changing conditions. Our journey took us through local trails and to hidden gems away from the usual tourist routes. A memorable lunch by a trout-filled stream captured the essence of New Zealand’s unique allure.

The day was filled with joy and a deep appreciation for Wanaka’s natural beauty and the quaintness of its lake and town. Although Doug’s technical skills far exceeded the demands of our excursion, his warm hospitality and engaging conversation enriched our experience. This day stands out as a highlight of our journey through the South Island.

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Johan, Australia

A very professional outfit. I've used Aspiring Guides multiple times since 2017 and all the guides have been very professional, capable and use sound risk management in Alpine environments. The gear/equipment used is good quality and the administration side is seamless. I'll be using Aspiring Guides again.

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Matthew, New Zealand

I had an amazing experience hiking with our guide Grace from Aspiring Guides on the Upper Wilkin and Gillespie pass trip. I had my first time on a helicopter and jet boat which was a blast. The scenery, native plants, birds, weather, and food was great. If you're hiking fit, I really recommend Aspiring guides if you want to go on a new adventure in the mountains. Thank you

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Pete, Australia

Been on the 4 day avalanche course and most recently the glacier ski/splitboard tour. Couldn't recommend them more. They were very professional, friendly, accommodating, and solid planning/execution of trip. Our group of 3 was well fed, felt safe and learned heaps. 6 star service! Will go again in future.

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Daniel, Australia

For those looking for a challenge and a unique experience, I would highly recommend booking a trip with Aspiring Guides. The team are very professional and my time on the Mt Cook Glacier was awesome. My guide Kim came with heaps of experience and technical competency and made the week both enjoyable and a good challenge. The admin support, supplied equipment and pre-planning made everything easy, especially coming from overseas.

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Olly, New Zealand

Perfect course was run for avalanche awareness. Couldn't have asked for anything better.

Couldn't recommend enough if you are looking at doing any ski related touring activities or courses around the Wanaka region.

Thanks again

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Tom, United Kingdom

Without question, the best guiding company I have ever come across.

Doug and Victoria were thoughtful and attentive in curating just the experience we wanted. Andrea, our Italian guide, was patient, good company and a wonderful instructor. Altogether Aspiring provided a truly unforgettable experience for us - I cannot recommend them highly enough.

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Liz, Australia

I did the Gillespie Pass walk and it was incredible! It was a challenge but that challenge was doable because of how well supported we were by Aspiring Guides from the beginning to the end. The pre-walk support was exceptional - information, follow-up emails, website info about the walk, what to pack, how to prepare. The walk was amazing! Not easy, but the challenge was made so much easier by Ross, our patient, kind and encouraging guide. We were also very well fed (even though I am Coeliac this was managed easily by Ross). It was an inspiring, challenging and beautiful walk, I highly recommend it. Thank You!

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Hannah, New Zealand

10/10. These guys are a pleasure to work with. Super accomodating and the guides made everyone feel comfortable and safe on our avalanche course. We came away feeling equiped with the knowledge we need moving forward and also had a super fun time with this lot! Couldn’t recommend more.

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Colin, New Zealand

I had a fantastic experience with Aspiring Guides, tackling the Gillespie Pass & Rabbit Pass route. While I have hiked extensively before, I was glad I chose to go guided for this trip. Our guide, Adam, was very confidence inspiring and generous with his knowledge. Plus he was a great chef! I was also fortunate that my trip companions were like minded people and we had a wonderful time together. I'll definitely be back to do more trips with Aspiring Guides.

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Daniel, New Zealand

Recently completed 4 day Robrosa ski tour and split boarding tour. Excellent guiding and teaching from our guide Sarah, and all together a great company to deal with. Would highly recommend these guys

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Melinda, Australia

The Mountaineering Skills Course was excellent, and it has helped me to understand the foundations of mountaineering and what skills I need to work on. The trip was very organised from the beginning and our guide Andy was very patient, encouraging and always focused on the safety elements of the trip while also bringing in challenge and fun. Thanks for a wonderful trip!

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Let’s go to the heart of adventure.

Exploring is human instinct. That urge to scale new heights, to venture off the beaten path? We feel it too. Once that spark is lit, it’s a passion that burns for a lifetime.

Every expedition, every adventure is different; a fresh challenge that beckons us back time and again.