The Godley offers distinct appeal for those looking for country less frequented than the adjoining Aoraki/Mount Cook region. Climbing is popular, especially on Mt D’Archiac - the highest peak in the area, but the Godley is probably best known for its world class ski touring country. For those looking specifically for information on ski touring a brief list of routes is provided.
The Godley is relatively untouched and provides not only remoteness but also a sense of timelessness - it’s well worth a visit.
Glacial recession is evident throughout the valleys east of the Main Divide, but nowhere is it more striking than in the Godley region. The Godley glaciers continue to show the most dramatic retreat of all glaciers in the Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park. In 1862 when Julius Haast visited the area the Godley, Maud and Grey Glaciers joined to form one major valley glacier but they have each retreated to the point where they are now completely separate.
Access is more difficult than in other parts of the Aoraki/Mount Cook region and typically requires a 4WD vehicle to get well up the valleys. Also, there are no high huts. Glacial recession has made access to routes during summer more difficult. However, in winter, frozen lakes can sometimes provide easy and unique access. Due to the ongoing changes, some approach routes described here may not continue to be the best way to gain the upper valleys and glaciers – so check with park staff and the hut books in the area to gain the most up-to-date access information.
The Godley region is most commonly accessed by vehicle from Tekapo via the Lilybank Road. However, the road on the west side of the Godley River, the Godley Peaks Road is also used to gain access to the peaks on the Liebig Range. The Havelock and Forbes valleys are used for 4WD and foot access from the east.
A number of high alpine passes and saddles also allow passage from valleys in the east, north and west. These include: the saddle north of The Ant-hill (from the Murchison) and Classen Saddle (from the upper Murchison), Terra Nova Pass (from the Havelock River), Stewart and Sealy Passes (both from the Perth River) and Grey Pass (from the Butler River).
From Tekapo via Lilybank Road
On the eastern side of the Tekapo township, turn off Highway 8 onto the unsealed Lilybank Road and follow this for approximately 20 km to the Macaulay River. Although this stretch of road is navigable by 2WD vehicles the remaining 47 km is strictly 4WD only.
Crossing the Macaulay River, for example, is a serious proposition, even for proper 4WD vehicles (read: low clearance 4WD vehicles will not survive). Two 4WD’s vehicles are recommended so you can pull out bogged vehicles.
Beyond the Macaulay River the road leads to Lilybank Station, to the left of the main buildings. Public access to the Godley Valley, and thus Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, is both legal and permitted – so please don’t call in to the station for permission.
However, please note that no legal access exists up Weka Stream or North Branch Stream. So don’t venture up these streams or onto any pastoral land held by Lilybank Station without permission.
The road weaves between farm sheds and barns past pine trees to follow a fenceline. Leave gates as you find them. Past the station the ‘road’ becomes a route. It turns out onto the Godley River flats and proceeds up valley. The route, which is punctuated with sections of old road and cairns, remains on the eastern side of the valley. A sign welcoming you to AMCNP is situated about 5 km before Red Stag Hut, which in turn is located about 5 km from the road end and peters out near to Separation Stream. A vague foot track starts on the north side of Separation Stream and travels along the eastern edge of the lower Godley Lake for about 300m. Godley Hut is situated up on a moraine shelf, ten or so minutes past FitzGerald Stream.
On the western side of the Classen Lake outflow is the Eade Memorial Hut. The hut is situated about 700m downstream of the lake outlet and up on a high terrace. Access via the western side of the Godley Valley is also possible. The unsealed Godley Peaks Road turns off the main road between Tekapo and its airport. Godley Peaks Station, situated just past the Cass River, is about 18 km from the township. A 4WD road continues past the station. Permission from Godley Peak Station should be sought for access beyond this point.
The Macaulay Valley is situated east of the Godley Valley and can be accessed by 4WD (depending on river and snow conditions). Cross the Macaulay River as detailed above, turn right before Lilybank Station and continue up the true right of the valley. Macaulay Hut sits on the Lower Tindill Stream fan, 19 km up the valley. The Godley-Macaulay Conservation Area (the area contained between the Two Thumb Range, the Godley and Macaulay rivers and McKinnon Stream) and Mt Sibbald can be accessed from this hut. For more information about this amazing section of high country contact DoC at either Aoraki/Mount Cook or Twizel.
Although 4WD access is faster and easier, some parties have used mountain bikes to gain the upper reaches of the Godley and Macaulay valleys.
Red Stag Hut. Owned by the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association (NZDA), has four bunks and some kitchen equipment (~950m, grid ref: 082-371).
Godley Hut. Owned by the NZAC, has eight bunks, a mountain radio (link to Christchurch) and some kitchen utensils (~1110m, grid ref: 086-445).
Eade Memorial Hut. Owned by the NZDA, has 4-6 bunks (~980m, grid ref: 065-401).
Macaulay Hut. Owned and operated by the Mackenzie Alpine Trust (Lake Tekapo), has 14 bunks, cooking facilities, a mountain radio (link to Christchuch) and solar lights. This hut was built for the wider community through generous community support and voluntary labour.
Tekapo to Macaulay River, by 4WD vehicle ~ 45mins.
Macaulay River to Red Stag Hut by 4WD ~1.5hrs.
Red Stag Hut to Godley Hut, by foot 1.5 – 2hrs.
Separation Stream to Godley Hut, by foot ~ 35mins.
Separation Stream to Eade Memorial Hut ~ 1hr (the Godley and possibly Classen rivers will need to be crossed – this may not be possible in some conditions).
Tekapo to Macaulay Hut, by 4WD ~ 2.5hrs.