Otago/West Coast, New Zealand
End: Crucible Lake
Distance: 40 miles (64 km)
Time: 3-4 days
Surface: Scree, Ice, Exposed Mountainside
The prospect of climbing up into the mountains on New Zealand’s South Island so you can swim in a lake full of icebergs may not be to everyone’s liking, but if you’re a wilderness enthusiast, this place is heaven.
Crucible Lake is not an easy place to get to. First, cross the Makarora River and follow the Young River to the twenty-bunk Young Hut. The next day, ascend to the tree line and follow the valley before climbing a grass spur for four hours to Gillespie Pass. Descend over snow grass plains to Siberia Stream, and another hour’s walk to the comfort of Siberia Hut. From there, a narrow spur, a river crossing, and a snow grass flat are all that separate you from your goal. Crucible Lake is in Mount Aspiring National Park, a land of beech and podocarp rain forests below, and alpine lakes, waterfalls, and-glaciers above. The hike there is very far off the beaten track and is best suited to those with previous backcountry experience. Set in a hanging valley beneath several glacier-laden summits, its waters are covered in both flat slabs of ice, which have formed over winter, and genuine icebergs that have calved off from the surrounding glaciers and plunged into the lake’s frigid waters. Sadly, you cannot camp here, due to the fragile nature of the surrounding fields of alpine herbs.