Backpack MacPherson Creek to Lake Barra

Mount Aspiring National Park, New Zealand

based on 1 reviews



7.5 miles

Elevation Gain

5249.3 ft

Route Type



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.

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Backpack MacPherson Creek to Lake Barra Reviews

Lake Barra was named after Burt Barra, a bushman who ended up as a kind of hermit on a farm my friend Chris Tait bought in the foothills of the Tararuas in the 70s. Burt told stories of how as a deer culler in the 1920s he discovered an unnamed lake high in the hills above the Haast. We found it on a map - still unnamed - so decided to visit. After a steep climb up from the road we camped, unfurled a sheet we carried with the words ‘Lake Barra’ on it, took a photo and scrambled back down. I then wrote to the Geographic Board proposing that the lake be named after Burt who might have been the first pakeha to ever have seen it. They replied, investigated and considered and it now commemorates Burt who finally died in the Wairarapa in his late 90s. Chris still lives on the farm. It was a great moment.

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!


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