The Nitty Gritty

Location: Alex Knob,Westland Tai Poutini National Park, South Island, New Zealand
Distance: 17.2 km
Trail style: Return
Climb: 1300 m
Grade: Hard

Highlights of this trail:

  • Constant views of Franz Josef Glacier on the climb
  • Mini waterfalls
  • Diverse vegetation – one minute you’re in a forest, the next on top of an alpine mountain.

This was my first full day hike in New Zealand, and it did not disappoint. I arrived super early to ensure the campervan got a park (there’s only about 20 or so spaces). I had also been told to get there early in order to reach the Alex Knob summit by midday, as an afternoon fog rolls in everyday after lunch – covering the view of Franz Josef.

The difference between Australian websites and New Zealand websites are the estimated times of trails. I found the New Zealand ones to be highly accurate. If it said 8 hours, I took 8 hours. And that’s with lots of snack breaks, lunch breaks, and photography breaks. I find Australian websites are generous with time – I’m usually ending well before the estimated time.

In regards to the path – there is a well-defined path the entire length of the track, so there is little chance of getting lost if you stick to the path.

While it was wonderful to see Franz Josef Glacier, it was also sad. The warming of climate over the past 15 years has seen the glacier recede from the river – the glacier now begins at the foot of the mountain. Over the next decades, it could all be gone.

Photos

Phone gallery:

Large format images:

The sign at the start of the trail

The sign at the start of the trail

Crew on top of Alex Knob. I'm nearly there.

Crew on top of Alex Knob. I’m nearly there.

View from Rata Lookout

View from Rata Lookout

View from Rata Lookout

View from Rata Lookout

View of Franz Josef Glacier from Alex Knob Summit

View of Franz Josef Glacier from Alex Knob Summit

View of Franz Josef Glacier from Alex Knob Summit

View of Franz Josef Glacier from Alex Knob Summit

Crew on top of Alex Knob with Franz Josef in the background

Crew on top of Alex Knob with Franz Josef in the background

Afternoon fog rolling in to block the view of Franz Josef Glacier

Afternoon fog rolling in to block the view of Franz Josef Glacier

View of Franz Josef Glacier from Alex Knob Summit

View of Franz Josef Glacier from Alex Knob Summit

View of Franz Josef Glacier from Alex Knob Summit

View of Franz Josef Glacier from Alex Knob Summit

View of Franz Josef Glacier from Christmas Lookout

View of Franz Josef Glacier from Christmas Lookout

Crossing the Waiho River at the end of the day

Crossing the Waiho River at the end of the day

Disclaimer: Be smart and prepare for the conditions of the day. This site accepts no responsibility for any misfortunes. 

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