Altitude: 274m to 720m. Gain: 906m. Loss: 1099m . Gradient: 11 deg (Moderate)
Skills: - Prolonged rivers (4/5)
Riverbed routes connect Otane and Otapukawa Huts, with a short tracked section over the saddle. The Otapukawa is gorged and slow, wet going.
From Otane Hut head upriver. Ignore the first north-bound fork (not shown as a watercourse but visible in the contours on the map) and continue another 300m upriver to the 2nd major fork - the fork shown on the map. Travel is in the riverbed and should be ankle-deep in normal flows. This river can flood.
Follow the 2nd fork north upriver (the main river swings due east at this point). The valley tightens and after some time a track marked with orange triangles appears on the western bank, later crossing to the east. The track climbs steeply to hit the ridge 50m west of the saddle. This section is poorly marked and uncut. On the ridgeline, swing east to the saddle and pick up the track dropping north. This section was uncut and thick with windfall (2015) and I lost the track in the end. It drops to the creek at the 1st forks (not shown on the map but the eastern fork is visible in contours).
The route downriver is good going, mainly in the bush with some marked sections 1km to the the first major forks, where good campspots exist (the last for some time). A section of flats follows, after which the gorges begin. 4km of continuous gorge travel follows, narrow, slippery and bouldery at first. The riverbed slowly becomes more gravelly and less rocks as you proceed downstream and the last 2km are much better underfoot, but still involve frequent crossings and raids.
The Otapukawa is ankle to waist deep in normal flows, narrow and confined in many places, and would not be a viable route after rain
The riverbed opens to scrubby flats 1km above Otapukawa Hut. A major sidestream enters from the east. Access to Otrapukawa Hut is 150m downriver - follow the base of a pebble cliff and take the unmarked track climbing east at the end of the bluffs. A 4WD track starts just beyond - if you hit that you've gone too far!