Warning: this route segment has been merged into Cairn - W Matakitaki Crossing to Three Tarns Pass via 3 Tarns (Unmarked route, clear).
You are viewing a historic version of this route.
Altitude: 865m to 1849m. Gain: 502m. Loss: 1307m . Gradient: 8 deg (Moderate-hard)
Skills: - Prolonged rivers (4/6)
The route to Three Tarn Pass heads north on a fairly flat ledge around both tarns with a fairly straight forward walk up schist to the pass itself. This is a very narrow gap in the ridge, easily visible in clear weather from both sides. The West Matakitaki side of Three Tarn Pass is a narrow and steep chute followed by reasonably easy walking down steep scree, avoiding the occasional small bluff, to the tarns. The West Matakitaki valley is a majestic valley clearly carved out by glaciers with the terminal moraine leaving the three tarns. Travel down the valley is reasonably straight forward. I stayed on the true left of the river for about 500 metres, until reaching 1,485m, when it became necessary to cross the river constantly to find the easiest travel. Parts of the river had very steep sides, and on occasion I found myself in bogs buried up to my knees and sometimes thighs, sliding down steep banks and alternating between walking over boulders on the side of the river and terraces above the river, with speargrass as a constant companion. The river rounded the moraine wall to head east, after which the travel became substantially easier on river flats, with what appeared to be evidence of pigs. Beyond these river flats the river enters a small gorge, with it being necessary to leave the river at about 1,150m and climb above it on the true left, and then descend back to the river, reaching it at 1,100m. This traverse required scrambling between rocks, hebes, flax and then pushing through thick young beech forest to reach the river. On reaching the river at 1,100m I crossed it, and found travel reasonably straight forward down grassy river flats again on the true right. Eventually at about 1,080m the river flats ended, met by heavy beech forest on a reasonably steep hillside.
A track begins at this point, although it requires some effort to find it. After about 2km, after crossing a side stream and rounding a bend to head north at about 1,000m, the conditions in the forest and track changed considerably. As we had discovered two years earlier, there was substantial windfall, with much of the canopy gone and the sky clearly visible, with trees lying criss-crossed over one another, completely blocking the track. Earlier we surmised that this was a result of Ex Tropical Cyclone Gita, that devastated parts of the Nelson/Tasman area in February 2018. This required going off track in places to travel up the slope to get around the piles of fallen trees, although invariably I encountered more fallen trees doing this. I went under and over several fallen trees, and about the last set required a huge effort over a large collection of trees fallen on top of one another. I proceeded carefully and made it through about 2km of hell, eventually reaching the West Matakitaki crossing to the true left and Bob’s Hut for lunch. Reading the hut book I noticed an entry from a two-person maintenance crew, who had started clearing the track upstream, but found it too challenging. They noted that they would return for further clearing. Hopefully they do clear a path through the fallen trees for easier and faster travel.