Altitude: 324m to 1878m. Gain: 3036m. Loss: 3202m . Gradient: 13 deg (Steep)
Skills: Prolonged scrambles (4/7) - Occasional rivers (3/6) Winter - Iceaxe/crampons (4/7)
Altitude: 362m to 1482m. Gain: 1311m. Loss: 191m . Gradient: 14 deg (Moderate-hard)
Skills: Alpine weather (2/7) - Streams (2/6)
From the Scott Creek car park on the Routeburn road cross the stile over the fence and follow a couple of snow poles across farm land under trees up the hill. Cross a second stile and follow a ground trail straight up the ridge line, entering thick bracken fern and scrub. The trail leads through the fern to trees and climbs parallel Scott Creek. Scrubby bush is past through, the track veers away from the creek at one point and its easy to miss the change here. If you find yourself at the edge of the creek then you have missed it! The track clears the scrub as it climbs higher passing through open beech forest. After about 3 hours you skirt by the edge of the 2 small clearings on the topo map (camping here) and then climbs up beside (and actually in at one point) Scott Creek to the bush edge at the floor of the Scott Basin. The track stays on the true right the whole way up and doesn't cross to the true left like the map says. There's camp spots at the bush line. Continue to follow the creek around to the south and cross it beside a patch of bush. Climb up the true left of the creek skirting the edge of the bush. Above the bush patch, follow ridge lines of firm scree as you climb higher, between Scott Creek and the stream draining the upper Scott Basin. Follow Scott Creek all the way up, around the east side of Peak 1552, past swampy terrain and up onto the rolling Scott Creek/Kay Creek Saddle. There's great camping to be had at Point 1344 which is easily reached by climbing to the east on the way up.
Altitude: 1407m to 1676m. Gain: 282m. Loss: 347m . Gradient: 18 deg (Moderate)
Skills: Occasional scrambles (3/7) - Streams (2/6)
From Kay Creek/Scot Creek Saddle climb westwards across rolling terrain and make your way up to the head of the northern tributary of Kay Creek. There is a large lake at the head, not shown on the map here. Sidle around the north side of the lake on scree and then climb straight up the scree to the northwest, making for a small obvious gap in the bluffs above. The gap, consisting of a rock ramp, provides good access to the rocky crest between Peaks 1960 and 1710. Alternatively, an obvious gut cuts into the bluffs above southwest of the lake which makes for a slightly higher climb on scree but is almost as equally easy a crossing.
Descend southwards on a rocky staircase to reach scree (and possibly snow early summer) in the western side of the pass before descending westwards down into the head of Death Valley. Good scree can be followed all the way down. Lower down, a grassy terrace overlooks the large tarn in the head of Death Valley, their western side is bluffed but these can be bypassed on the scree to the north or a grassy gully on the south which leads directly down to the eastern shore of the tarn.
Altitude: 914m to 1417m. Gain: 0m. Loss: 503m . Gradient: 11 deg (Moderate)
Skills: Occasional scrambles (3/7) - Streams (2/6)
Descend steep snow grass west of the lake down to Death Creek, following a ridge down to. Cross the stream and head down valley following the true right of Death Creek. Good travel can be had down to about 1100m where light scrub is encountered. Near the bottom of the valley the scrub belt thickens considerably before the creek drops away down a gorge. Make sure you're on the true left side and look for a cairn mounted high up on a large boulder. Behind the boulder a ground trail pushes through knee high scrub high above the true left side of the stream before dropping straight down for the bush tongue extending up from the Kay. Reach reasonably open beech forest, and drop down through the bush via a gully to reach scrubby open flats just north of Kay Creek Hut. Locate a large orange triangle which marks the beginning of the Kay Creek track and follow it for about 100m to the historic Kay Creek hut which was restored in 2016.
Altitude: 478m to 919m. Gain: 61m. Loss: 497m . Gradient: 6 deg (Moderate)
Skills: - Occasional rivers (3/6)
From the ramshackle Kay Creek Hut follow the markers which drop initially eastwards and fords the creek (probably impossible after rain). The track then drops southwards down the true left of the creek for a while before a 2nd fording, again impassible after rain. Its on down valley through a mixture of bush and river flats with great camping spots. The track does not follow Kay Creek right down into the Caples, but instead climbs up above the lower gorge and swings westwards, dropping down to flat ground on the true left of the Caples between the Kay and Fraser valleys. A T-intersection of tracks is reached between the Kay and Fraser tracks, with the 3rd track dropping down to the swing bridge over the Caples at the western end of the large clearing, not marked correctly on the map.
Note: The Upper Caples Hut was given/sold to the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association in mid 2014. It is now a private, locked hut. All track markers and signs between the Caples Track and the Caples swing bridge, which used to pass by the hut, have been removed. The track on the true right of the swing bridge now heads southeast straight up to the Caples track, several hundred meters west of the hut. As the Caples track actually passes to the west of the hut (this is shown incorrectly on the map) you wouldn't know it was there walking along the Caples track if you weren't looking at the now obsolete map.
Altitude: 471m to 478m. Gain: 7m. Loss: 0m . Gradient: 1 deg (Flat)
Cross the Caples RIver on the brigde. Upper Caples Hut is 300m further down the opposite bank along the well used Caples Track.
Altitude: 436m to 474m. Gain: 39m. Loss: 73m . Gradient: 2 deg (Flat)
Skills: - Streams (2/6)
It is an easy walk along clearly marked and well maintained track from the Upper Caples Hut. The track follows the wide grassy river flats on the true right of the river, with occasional tongues of beech for variety.
At the foot end of the second open flat, a confluence with Sleepy Hollow Creek marks the start of a route climbing to the picturesque Sleepy Hollow to the NE.
Altitude: 437m to 1258m. Gain: 821m. Loss: 1m . Gradient: 23 deg (Moderate-hard)
Skills: Alpine weather (2/7) - Occasional rivers (3/6) Winter - Iceaxe/crampons (4/7)
Sleepy Hollow is most easily reached by following the ridge on the true right of the creek which drains it (north-west side). Cross the Caples at the confluence at the base of the river flats then head up the true right of the creek which drains Sleepy Hollow. Eventually you'll pick up the clear spur 100m NW of the creek. The spur is in mature beech and clear of undergrowth all the way to the bushline at about 1400m. From here views of the Mid Caples valley flats and Ailsa Mountains beyond are fair reward for the climb.
Altitude: 1402m to 1714m. Gain: 312m. Loss: 21m . Gradient: 102 deg (Moderate-hard)
Skills: Alpine weather (2/7) Winter - Iceaxe/crampons (4/7)
Above the bushline, keep to the ridge to the west of the side creek and then cut due east around its head to pt 1742. Here you enter a region of strongly coloured red, ultramafic rocks, unlike any others I've seen in the region. Crossing this red rocky flat to the east of the ridge (pt1845) deposits you at the outflow of Sleepy Hollow.
Altitude: 825m to 1878m. Gain: 203m. Loss: 1069m . Gradient: 17 deg (Steep)
Skills: Prolonged scrambles (4/7) - Streams (2/6)
I passed Sleepy Hollow on the eastern side - good going on stable rock-scree.
The pass from Sleepy Hollow to the Gorge is clearly visible at the head of the lake: it is the 'bite' shaped gap in the cliffs at the top of the scree on the left-hand side, just to the east of pt1973 on the map (2138600,558540). When I walked this pass in mid-January, all but the last 15m to the pass were free of snow and the route could be classed as a 'medium to hard scramble'. In snowy / icy conditions, this section would require alpine skills, and at minimum an ice-axe.
The pass provides amazing views of Mt Bonpland, Glenorchy at the head of Lake Wakatipu, Mt Earnslaw and the Dart and Rees valleys.
The descent to the plateau at the head of Gorge Creek receives more sunshine, and is be ice free for longer. The scree is fine and loose, and it is an easy scramble 100m down to the rocky plateau
From the plateau below the Gorge / Sleepy Hollow pass, head north, keeping to the plateau and roughly the same altitude. A short scramble is necessary across the head of the Woodbine Station creek, but it is a relatively easy route to the cliffs above Glacier Burn, 1.5km from the pass.
About 200m before the plateau ends in sheer cliffs, a ridge drops east to a col between the main range and pt1731. From this col (2139000,5587000), the gully shown on the map descends due north to the floor of Glacier Burn, losing 700m in about 1km. The going is steep, but reasonably stable.
Glacier burn in very small in normal conditions, but could conceivably flood.
Following the Glacier Burn down, the track can be picked up after about 1km, entering the bush on the true left of the creek where it enters the beech forest.
Altitude: 324m to 824m. Gain: 0m. Loss: 500m . Gradient: 9 deg (Gentle)
Skills: Winter - Snow/ice underfoot (2/7)
A good clear cut track runs beside Glacier Burn on the western bank between the roadend and the open basin at the head of the valley.