Backpack MacPherson Creek to Lake Barra

Rate this Adventure New Zealand MacPherson Creek

Added by Crystal Brindle

A one or two night journey into the high reaches of this valley provides opportunities to climb MacPherson Knob, visit Lake Barra, and climb Mount Campbell. The only other tracks you’re likely to find in the snow are from the resident alpine-dwelling chamois who peer down from the rocky outcrops they call home.

If you’re ready for an advanced challenge to suit any adventurous spirit and have the skills to navigate complicated terrain then the narrow MacPherson Creek drainage on the fringes of Mount Aspiring National Park may grab your interest. Diving in from the MacPherson Creek bridge on the Haast Road just a few kilometres west of Pleasant Flat, bush climbing and crawling dominates the first half of this approach to the rugged and seriously remote Lake Barra.

Despite being only a few kilometres from a major road, this entire river valley sees very little visitation as it is completely untracked and difficult to travel through. A bush spur on the true left of the river leads you to the tussock slopes beneath MacPherson Knob via an intermittent deer trail. Once above bushline sidle beneath MacPherson Knob across very steep snowgrass and rocky outcrops or opt for climbing up and over the mountain. Once on the other side, the basin of Lake Barra beneath Mount Campbell is clearly visible. Continue sidling along snowgrass slopes, rock, and snow before climbing up to reach the rim of Lake Barra.

Camp here for an incredible view over the lake and valley or descend to the lake. Routes to the summit of West Peak and Mount Campbell are easily accessed from this location. Return via the same route to the Haast Road or through trial and error discover a steep bush spur and chamois trail that leads down to the river valley below. Either route is difficult so prepare for a long and challenging descent.

Pack List

  • Ice axe and crampons
  • Map, compass, GPS, navigation skills
  • Backpacking gear
  • Tent
  • Good, durable boots
  • Camera
  • Tripod
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Backpacking, Camping, Hiking, Photography

Skill Level:



Spring, Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:



7.5 Miles

Elev. Gain:

5249.3 Feet



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Added by Crystal Brindle

I'm Crystal, a park ranger for the National Park Service in the United States and the Department of Conservation in New Zealand - you'll find me floating between hemispheres as the seasons change. I am an avid landscape photographer and wilderness explorer committed to capturing the scenes and moments that inspire me and require dedication to experience. Living in national parks throughout my life, I've developed a deep appreciation for the natural world. This appreciation drives my passion for protecting wild places today. My first job as a ranger in Rocky Mountain National Park inspired me to spend my time exploring the depths of the park’s wilderness and instilled a sense of adventure that extends into all areas of my life. I now actively seek backcountry recreation that takes me into remote corners of mountainous regions all over the world. I have had the opportunity to live and work in some of the most intriguing places our world has to offer - from the high places of Colorado, to the South Island of New Zealand, to the rugged Alaska Peninsula, and many locations in between. I feel that the only way to truly get to know a place is to meet it on its own terms and to embrace its challenges through which its beauty is revealed. To me this is the definition of wilderness and the foundation of my photography.
 Since I began this journey of photography three years ago, I have honed my interests to focus on high-alpine mountain landscapes inaccessible to all except those who travel on foot. These are the landscapes that captivate me. I feel drawn to share their remarkable qualities through the visual narrative of photography and short stories of personal experience. This is a craft that I am refining daily and my photography is only a work-in-progress but I feel that this effort is worthwhile as I strive to let the landscape tell its own story and act as a vector for its message. 
 What's next? After a summer of living with brown bears and climbing mountains under the midnight sun in Katmai National Park and Preserve on the Alaska Peninsula, I'm heading back to New Zealand to further explore the wonders of the South Island and work as a Hut Warden on the Heaphy Track in Kahurangi National Park.

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