Rees-Dart Track & Cascade Saddle Alternate
The Rees-Dart Track and Cascade Saddle alternate is one of the alternate routes on the Te Araroa that we did not have a chance to do with our time on the Te Araroa. It seems like one of those alternate routes where a high level of skill and comfort is required on some tricky terrain. Also, Michael Deckebach has some helpful information on this alternate. From everything we read and other people that we talked with the Cascade Saddle sounds completely breathtaking.
About the Route.
We are writing this description if one were walking the Te Araroa Northbound for this alternate.The alternate technically starts at the beginning of the Dart Track which is located just outside of Glenorchy. Begin by following the Dart Track all the way to Dart Hut and Campsite. Just after the Dart Hut you will cut North continuing to follow the Dart River up into the basin east of Mt. Edward. Eventually, you will begin to contour northeast up towards the Cascade Saddle. Once over Cascade Saddle you will drop south and then eventually east toward the Aspiring Hut and campsite. Then, follow the trail all the way down to the Raspberry Creek Carpark and hitch a ride or walk towards Glendhu Bay/ Wanaka. You can rejoin the actual Te Araroa Trail at Glendhu Bay and walk that into Wanaka for a resupply.
Cascade Saddle Map:
Rees-Dart Track Map:
Things to Consider.
Some considerations when thinking about doing this alternate include navigation, comfort on technical & steep terrain, and weather. From what we heard and read about the route if you are not a competent navigator and are not comfortable moving on steep exposed terrain - it may not be the best alternate for you. Also, as with any part of the mountains in New Zealand, the weather can ultimately dictate whether or not you can attempt the alternate. Personally, we decided to bail on the alternate because there was a huge storm blowing in and we felt like it was not the best decision to go out in inclement weather. If you would like to plan to stay at the Mount Aspiring Hut on the east side of Cascade Saddle, then you will need to pay when you arrive as backcountry hut passes do not work at this specific hut.
Also, another important thing to note, is that if you do this alternate you will miss the Motatapu Track, Glenorchy, and Queenstown, which are all on the official Te Araroa. The Motatapu Track has stunning views and many amazing and challenging sections of trail. So, if you are attached to walking the proper Te Araroa then you could either decide to backtrack and walk that track or just not do the Cascade Saddle Alternate.
Connecting the Caples & Routeburn Track Alternate with the Rees-Dart & Cascade Saddle Alternate.
It is possible, and we initially had planned to, connect the Caples & Routeburn Track Alternate with the Rees-Dart Track and Cascade Saddle Alternate. We had to bail after the Routeburn Track because of the weather. To do this, when the Northbound walker leaves Te Anau they should plan to carry food all the way through to Wanaka (a long carry if you aren’t feeling fit on the Te Araroa yet…).
After getting to the end of the Routeburn you are able to walk the road (or hitchhike - whatever works for you) all the way around to the start of the Dart River Track and then start the Rees-Dart Track and Cascade Saddle Alternate. Connecting all of these alternates together would require good planning and fitness and should be attempted by folks who feel like they are dialed in their mountain skills.
How We DIDN'T Do it.
Yep. We didn’t do this alternate. We wanted to, but the weather deterred. us and we were feeling excited to see what was up with the Motatapu Track. This track and generally spending more time in Fiordland and Mount Aspiring National Parks are on our list if we ever go back.