Skills: Alpine weather (2/7) - Streams (2/6) Winter - Iceaxe/crampons (4/7)
From Fern Burn Hut the Motutapu Track is rougher but remains a well marked tramping track. The track makes a steady ascent from the hut, sidling the SE valleyside on a steady gradient to reach basins at the head of Fern Burn. A couple of steep, brief ascents climb to a shoulder just west of the saddle at the valley head.
SW of the saddle the track becomes steeper and rougher as it makes a steep descent into Highland Creek. This section is icy in winter and has exposed sections. At least an ice-axe is recommended in winter months.
After dropping to the the NE branch of Highland Creek (small and not an issue to cross except in extreme conditions) the track (now just a poled route) makes a steep ascent 100m up the eastern valleyside to sidle above bluffs and over a series of 3 shoulders & intervening gullies before dropping to the south fork at Highland Creek Hut.