Skip to content

Albert Burn Saddle

7 February 2011

Coordinates 44°23.800′ S, 168°52.679′ E

Tarn on Albert Burn Saddle. Photo D Hegg

Albert Burn Saddle (1681m) is the lowest point in the 10km long range separating the Matukituki River East Branch from the Albert Burn. In spite of its relatively high elevation, it is vegetated to the top on both sides, and provides an excellent tramping route between the two catchments. It gives easy access to Dragonfly Peak, and to the unnamed peak 2127m to the north.

A private hut (Whare Kea Lodge) is located on the ridge just above the saddle, at 1720m of elevation. Built by Trilane Industries in 2002 in spite of opposition by recreational groups [1], it provides luxury accommodation for guided walkers who fly in by helicopter. Only 40m away from the border of Mount Aspiring National Park in an otherwise pristine corner of the Southern Alps, the hut is an awful example of how poorly protected our landscapes are from greed and developement. It is to be hoped that the lodge will be removed once the tenure review process with Mt Aspiring Station is completed.

Whare Kea Lodge (private hut on Albert Burn Saddle). Photo D Hegg


The naming of Albert Burn Saddle is a rather confusing matter, so much so that I believe it warrants a separate paragraph. The first name recorded in the alpine literature was Inglis Pass or Inglis Saddle [2,3], after one of the members of the first recreational party to cross from the Matukituki River East Branch into the Albert Burn (see the history section below). To the local run-holders, the saddle was known as Archies Pass [4,5]. During the 1940s to 1960s, the name Albertburn Saddle was used instead to describe the pass between the North Branch of the Albert Burn and the Wilkin River [6,7]. I don’t know when exactly the shift to the current nomenclature occurred, but the pass between the Matukituki River East Branch and the Albert Burn is consistently referred to as Albert Burn Saddle since the mid 1980s.

The saddle was unnamed in the first four editions of Moir’s Guide, while the (now) gazetted name Albert Burn Saddle was adopted in the fifth edition [8]. For some bizarre reason, the most recent editions of Moir’s Guide North refer to South Albert Burn Saddle [9]. It seems completely inappropriate to deviate from the gazetted name, especially since there is no North Albert Burn Saddle described in the guidebook.

Albert Burn Saddle and Dragonfly Peak from Aspiring Flats. Photo D Hegg


The first recorded crossing of Albert Burn Saddle by a recreational party was completed by H.F. Wright, H.E. Hodgkinson, J.K. Inglis, A.E. Duncan and J.R. Murrell on 3 December 1914 [2,3]. The party of five was on a mountaineering trip with Mount Aspiring as a goal, but they “were 20 days absent from Dunedin, and there was not one day during that time fit for high climbing”. The party reached the Bonar via a new route to the left of French Ridge, probably making the first crossing of the Breakaway. After an aborted attempt on the NW ridge of Mount Aspiring, where they had to turn around near the top of the Ramp because of high winds, they crossed back over the Bonar and split into two groups. Wright and Hodgkinson claimed the virgin Mount Joffre, while the rest of the party climbed Mount French via the north-west ridge [2]

The party returned down valley to Cameron Flat, then set off into the Matukituki River East Branch, over Albert Burn Saddle into the Albert Burn South Branch, down and up into the North Branch and over a pass west of Mt Twilight into the Wilkin River. The whole country between the East Matukituki and the Wilkin was previously unexplored [2].

Being an easy, logical pass between two major catchments, Albert Burn Saddle may have been previously crossed by run-holders or gold prospectors, who usually left no records of their explorations.

Route descriptions

Albert Burn Saddle map. 1 grid square = 1cm. Left click to enlarge

From Junction Flat

Rating: Tramping, off track, moderate                                    February 2010

From Junction Flat in the Matukituki River East Branch, follow the track towards Ruth Flat until it levels off above the bush-line. After crossing a couple of scrubby gullies, leave the track to climb the obvious, easy spur leading towards Albert Burn Saddle. At the 1540m contour, sidle right (south) on animal trails into the head of Hester Pinney Creek, then climb the last steep 100m directly to the saddle.

Time to the saddle: allow about 4 hours from Junction Flat, 7 to 8 hours from the road end at Cameron Flat.


[1] Mountain Clubs appeal QLDC consent for hut. The Southland Times, 16 May 2002

[2] Wright, H.F.: Round About Aspiring – Some trying experiences. Otago Witness, 15 December 1915, p38-40

[3] First ascents and explorations – Aspiring Group. The New Zealand Alpine Journal, Vol IV, No. 18, 1931, page 155. Published by the New Zealand Alpine Club.

[4] p170 in Aspinall, J. (1993) Farming under Aspiring. Published by the Aspinall Family, Wanaka, 267 pages

[5] Aspinall, J.: A runholder, a father, a tramper. The New Zealand Alpine Journal, Vol XX, No. 51, 1964, pages 309-310. Published by the New Zealand Alpine Club. 

[6] Whitehead, V.I.E.: Ascent of Jumbo Peak. The New Zealand Alpine Journal, Vol X, No.30, 1943, pages 53-54. Published by the New Zealand Alpine Club. 

[7] Barrowclough, R.G.: The shortest way home. The New Zealand Alpine Journal, Vol XVIII, No.47, 1960, pages 376-377. Published by the New Zealand Alpine Club. 

[8] p51 in Kennedy, L.D. (Editor) 1984. Moir’s Guide Book, Northern Section, 5th edition. Published by the New Zealand Alpine Club, 103 pages.

[9] p90 in Spearpoint, G. (Editor) 2005. Moir’s Guide North, 7th Edition – The Otago Southern Alps. A tramping and transalpine guide from the Hollyford to Lake Ohau. Published by the New Zealand Alpine Club. 260 pages

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: