Are we there yet? Where is French Ridge Hut?!?! I remember clearly that the distance marker and signboard at Pearl Flat reads “French Ridge Hut –> 3 hr” after the river crossing, and we are now 3.5 hours into the hike and I still do not spot the bright red French Ridge Hut. The last 3.5 hours was sheer torture. The only consolation I had was the beautiful mountain backdrop behind us once we got high enough and we had a clear view of the red Liverpool Hut standing strikingly across the Matukituki Valley. This was definitely a full body workout. This section of the trail constantly required me to grab on big fat roots and branches of trees to hoist myself up the steep muddy terrain in the jungle with high-steps. And it definitely did not help that we had full intention to camp in the valley for this 4 Days 3 Nights trek, so we were carrying tents and food supply in our heavy backpacks.

I was trudging step by step with my face down, trying to avoid the strong glares from the hot sun. My perspiration was also washing off the sunblock that I had diligently applied in the tent this morning.

“Come on! I see the toilet!”, Patrick, my fiance, hollered loudly.

I peered up and squinted my eyes against the blinding sun, and there it is. The STRIKING RED TOILET. I have never been so happy to see a toilet in my life! My whole body is aching, but I am so glad we finally made it!

Finally, after what seems like eternity, we hear chattering in the distance, and we can see the toilet and the striking red French Ridge Hut! We are totally thrilled!?

A Guide to Hiking to French Ridge Hut (and Beyond)

Located in the Matukituki Valley area?and?Mount Aspiring National Park?in the?Otago?region (near Wanaka), the French Ridge Track is deemed as an advanced track that is 16.2km long one way, and you will return via the same track. Typically, most people would attempt this over 3 days:

Day 1 – Raspberry Creek car park to Aspiring Hut

Day 2 – Aspiring Hut to Liverpool Hut or French Ridge Hut

Day 3 – Liverpool Hut / French Ridge Hut to Raspberry Creek car park

Patrick and I always enjoyed doing these treks in a slightly different way, and this time round, we decided to do just that. Make this a camping trip and spend one more day in the wilderness and do a day hike around French Ridge Hut.

Start of French Ridge Track
Don't forget to take a peek at Rob Roy Glacier!
To the left of the trail, you will see and hear massive waterfalls too
I'm loving the clear turquoise blue water!

This section of the track is relatively flat, and the biggest challenge you face is probably the hot sun and a couple of small water streams that you will encounter along the track, but if you have the agility to jump from rocks to rocks, your shoes will be safe from getting wet!

Reaching Mount Aspiring Hut

The Aspiring Hut is gorgeous! This is a New Zealand Alpine Club hut, and sleeps 29 pax, and is definitely one of the better-equipped hut with facilities such as flush toilets. We took a short snack break before pushing on towards Pearl Flat to find a decent camp spot for the night.

Do note the capacity limit of these swing bridges that you will cross throughout the trek
Awe-inspiring!
Clear mirror reflection of the peaks and glacier on the water!

Today had been a relatively easy day, with approximately 4 hours of walking. And… decision has been made. We are sleeping here tonight! What more can one ask for? Snow-capped peak and glacier view, and clean water streams for cooking. So we?dropped our backpacks to explore the area and to see how close we can get to the glacier waterfall!

The moon is peering out as the sun sets. Better get the tent set up before the whole valley is covered behind the shadows of the mountains and we lose light and warmth.

It had been a cold night! We woke up with frost on our tent, and we were just waiting for the sun to hit our tent so we get motivated to get out of our sleeping bags and enjoy the view with a cup of hot tea in our hands!

Frost everywhere around us!

We could see hikers making their way towards Liverpool / French Ridge Hut, as you definitely want to get there earlier as you are unable to make bookings, and is on a first come first served basis. You definitely do not want to reach there late and without a bed for tonight in the hut if you do not have a tent.?

Sun is finally hitting where we are and warming up the valley

We got to the ice cold river crossing at Pearl Flat and this is the intersection where one will choose to go towards Liverpool Hut or French Ridge Hut. From here on, it will be a painful hike through the steep muddy terrain where the roots and branches would become your best friend. You will be hugging them non-stop along the way!

Stepping into this ice cold river water will wake you up for sure!
A much-needed rest as we trudge on with our heavy backpacks

Finally above the treeline but where is the hut?

We made it! But we are not done till we find the perfect campspot for the night. There were lots of bivouac shelters (or bivvy / bivy) made out of rocks that looks really decent! But unfortunately our tent was too big for that.?

French Ridge Hut
What an amazing backdrop for a toilet!
Guess this is it! Our camping spot for tonight

It is known that French Ridge Hut has some of the best sunset viewing spots. After our dinner feast of tomato sauce meatballs, is time to let our eyes have a feast too.?

Everyone's getting ready in their sunset viewing seats
It is going to be a night with bright round moon peering over us

Woke up to the sounds of Keas flying and chirping outside our tents. We were told that Keas are extremely curious birds and are especially attracted to bright coloured items. Hence, to avoid having our orange tents drawing too much attention to these beautiful birds, we dismantled our tents and left them in the hut before we start?our day hike up beyond the French Ridge Hut to get a better view of Mount French and the Quarterdeck Pass.?

Spotted lots of beautiful flora and fauna along the way

Followed some occasional cairns along the way and finally getting closer to the glacier and snow!

Spot the turquoise blue glacier lake that has formed at the foot of the cliff

After some hours of fun exploration, we start heading back towards the hut.?

Got back to the hut and as the weather forecast is calling for rain the next day, we decided to head towards Pearl Flat to camp so that it would be a shorter hike out to the car park before it rains on us. Right after lunch, we started making our way down.

It was still tough hiking down the steep terrain but it was definitely more manageable than before.?

Here’s our camping spot at Pearl Flat!

Clouds coming in later in the evening. New Zealand weather does change drastically at times

To avoid getting caught in the rain which was predicted in the afternoon, we had an early start towards the trail head. Beautiful and cool day out!

Back to Raspberry Creek car park

It had been an epic 4 Days 3 Nights adventure camping out on this track! It may have challenged me physically and mentally, but it was so rewarding and I would definitely go back for more. For more blogs on our adventure in New Zealand, check it out here!

Looking for unique experiences that does not follow a typical itinerary, is an off the beaten path trip that is not too crowded? Our New Zealand treks and?glacier exploration trips in this region might be the perfect fit for you. For more information, contact us at info@wilfirexpedtions.com.

Like all of us, when ?lockdown? happened, we expected it to last for a month. Then, like all of us, we were surprised when it seemed to go on and on. Maybe that sounds a bit dramatic, or maybe some of you are feeling stir crazy as well. We live in Colorado, a little over an hour from the Rocky Mountain range ? a year-round playground right in our backyard! When the state closed access to trails due to Covid-19, it was reassuring to know that we could access wilderness as soon as lockdown was over.

The walks, runs, and bike rides on trails around the city have been great, but the longer it lasted, the more we longed for the crisp, clean air and mountain solitude. Once restrictions started to ease, we planned our first hike and soon after, headed out to the mountains.

We started out early on Saturday morning to beat most other people to the trailhead…or so we planned. It was a beautiful drive through the winding canyon towards Indian Peaks wilderness, and we were excited for the morning ahead of us. Until we saw the policeman in the middle of the road, alerting drivers that the trailhead was full?!

Not to be deterred, I checked the map and found another small trail to a lake in an open space protected area ? a little off the beaten path so not very popular. The easy trail was more of a long walk in the woods than a hike, but it was still great to be outside with very few people!

The starting point at mountain lake 8000ft (2439m) above sea level was a short walk away. From there, we set off on a 5-mile (8km) loop gaining less than 1000ft (305m) of elevation – a great way for our legs to ease back to sloping terrain after over 3 months of flat city life. Our previous day out at altitude (over 11000ft!) had been for snowboarding in March ? an entirely different season and what feels like a lifetime ago!

Being out in the spring air was refreshing, with the smells and sounds of the forest all around.

The hike was shorter than planned, but exactly what we needed! The forest of green aspen and pine trees with mountain peaks rising tall above open meadows and an added bonus of the small mountain lake nestled within its midst, was a great start to the weekend. What a way to get back into nature!

The pandemic is still prevalent, but this should not stop us from planning and preparing our next adventure when travel resumes. We still have hopes of getting to Taiwan at the end of the year, so check out our Xue Mountain trek and our Holy Trail trek.

We also have lots of how-to videos, sharing of tips on topics such as photography, backpacking, climbing, diving and trekking on our Youtube Channel and website, to prepare you for your next adventure while staying at home. Subscribe to your Youtube channel now to receive updates whenever we upload great content!

Wolgan Valley, Australia The Climb ? Organ Grinder (60m, 5c+)

Tour Trip

Wanaka Climbing

Wolgan Valley is about 2 hours North West of Sydney and is a mecca for trad climbing. The sandstone rocks and ageless rock formations have earned nickname of ?The Gardens of Stone?

First climbed in the early sixties, Wolgan Valley has remained a bit of a secret spot for climbing in the Blue Mountains.? Only 2 guide books have been printed and the latest edition was circulated in 2002, making it a very rarely explored destination.? I got lucky enough to spend three days exploring one of the main walls, called ?The Coke Ovens? in a recent trip.? My girlfriend and I had a chance to further our trad climbing skills while taking in amazing scenery.

Having done a bit of multi-pitch climbing in the past, I wanted to spend time working with Meiqi on the basics of multi-pitch trad climbing.? Most of the routes around Wolgan Valley are trad routes.? There are a few bolted routes, but the grade is usually at the advanced to expert level.? Before we began, I discussed with Meiqi a few points of the basics of trad climbing which I thought it would be good to share.

Pre-Climb

When starting off with the basics of trad climbing, you will use a lot more gear than sport climbing. You will need to carry quickdraws and cams and wires to complete the pitch and the weight of all the gear can add to the challenge of the climb.

  • Trad Climbing – Get an accurate idea of how much gear you will need to complete the climb.

Too much gear will weigh you down and hinder your movements.? Not enough gear and you end up having huge run outs (lots of space) between protection placements. For example, if a pitch is 30 meters, then typically you want to place protection every 2 to 3 meters.? Of course, this varies from climb to climb.? For example, placing a protection just before the crux and just after the crux is a bit of a common practice.

  • Trad climbing – Do the calls and buddy checks that you practice at the gym

  • Climbing, Am I on Belay, Belay On, Safe, Slack?
  • Check the belay device, the knots and that both of you are tied into the rope

When doing a multipitch, chances are, you wont have a clear view of climber.? Maybe you wont have a view at all.? So the calls are important.? Make sure to be loud when you make the calls.

The Climb

  • Trad Climbing – Be mindful of the belayer (They will Thank you)

Your belayer is below you, so be mindful as you place your hands and feet for any lose rock or dirt.? It will hit them.? The belayer must remain constantly aware.? Belaying is not exactly an exciting job, but it is extremely important to remain alert as the climbers life depends on it.

travel trips

Mountains Trek Mongalia
  • Trad Climbing – After Completing that first pitch, belaying from above

Once the lead climber completes the first pitch (which is usually at a suitable place to set up a safe anchor to belay), they set up a solid equalized anchor to belay from.? Remember the calls: ?Safe? ?Off-Belay? ?Belay Ready?. The belayer below needs a bit of time to prepare to climb.? Give the calls and once you are safe, you can start pulling up the rope knowing that it is tied to the belayer, because you did the safety checks. While pulling up the rope, keep it as neat as you can and off to one side.? You don?t want the coils to entangle your feet while you are trying to belay. Remember to be patient as the 2nd person has to clean the climb (remove any trad gear placement), and this can take time.? You don?t want them to rush and drop gear.

tour trips

Tours and Training in Mongolia
  • Trad Climbing – Stay safe!

Make sure as the top belayer you stay on the equalized anchor and have a tie in point separate from the point you are using to belay. No need to put too much stress on one single anchor point.? Also stay alert while belaying. Not only to the climber, but also be mindful of the time as well as the weather.? You don?t want to be in the middle of a multi-pitch route when it gets dark or the weather changes and a storm hits.? Be mindful of the surroundings.

  • Trad Climbing – be sure to Rotate between the lead climber and the second climber.

Because leading is exhausting work (extremely rewarding and fun though), make sure to switch up who is the lead climber and who is the second climber. It makes a big difference to get that rest between pitches.

We spent the day practicing these techniques while completing two pitches, taking time to enjoy the views, and discussing what we had practiced.

Completing the multi-pitch and standing from the top we still had to get down. We were lucky with some great rappels and beautiful sunset in the background, it was an epic outdoor day.

adventures in the world

Wildfire Adventure Travel

Being winter time in Australia, the sun sets rather quickly and we made it down just in time to pack up our gear and start the path back to camp.

You cannot connect the dots looking forward, only when looking backward, and as I look back at that day, the little things learned on these climbs prepared me for the big wall climbs to come.? The reward is in the risk?

adventures in the world

This is by no means an exhaustive checklist to the a full course in trad multi-pitch climbing, but rather an overview of the first steps of getting into trad climbing.

Join us on one of our courses to get the skills to confidently do outdoor rock climbing, whether you prefer sport, trad, multi pitch or all of the above.

Even more rewarding is joining one of our treks that will utilize these skills while summiting amazing peaks.

Check out our upcoming treks,

or email Patrick@wildfirexpeditions.com for more information