Length: from 10.0 up to 14.0 days
Distance: 96.9 km (118.0 DOC hours) - Unmarked route, hard - Hard terrain
Altitude: 1m to 1602m. Gain: 7987m. Loss: 7994m . Gradient: 10 deg (Steep)
Skills: Prolonged scrambles (4/7) - Prolonged rivers (4/6)

A long hard slog that took 11 days in generally poor weather. Big valleys, thick bush, boggy flats, bouldery slopes. With the occasional reward of stunning views down George and Caswell sound, and traverses of Mt Donald and the magical tarnscape of the Te Au tops.

From Glaisnock Hut to Henderson/Glaisnock forks via Glaisnock River track
Distance: 3.5 km (3.0 DOC hours) - Marked route - Easy-moderate terrain
Altitude: 207m to 244m. Gain: 51m. Loss: 22m . Gradient: 1 deg (Gentle)
Skills: - Streams (2/6)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

Note: Described in the reverse direction to your journey

A marked route / trapline runs down the western (true right) bank of the Glaisnock from Henderson Burn to Glaisnock Hut. The track/route leaves the river at the last bend before the hut and follows the base of the western valleyside to the hut.

There are good bush campspots on the south side of the Henderson on the track. Other than Henderson Burn there are no major creeks to cross.

Henderson -> Hut: 1.5-3 hrs

Last updated by: Madpom at 2018-02-26 02:18:53. Experienced: 2018-02-22

From Henderson/Glaisnock forks to Lake Thomson Hut via Henderson / Wapiti rivers
Distance: 16.4 km (21.0 DOC hours) - Unmarked route, clear - Hard terrain
Altitude: 236m to 1302m. Gain: 1154m. Loss: 1098m . Gradient: 8 deg (Steep)
Skills: Prolonged scrambles (4/7) - Occasional rivers (3/6)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

There are good well used campsites on the true right of the Glaisnock just below Henderson Burn. The trail up Henderson Burn starts from the rear of these. Climb the true right of Henderson Burn, staying out of the deep gorge. Deer trails are strong until the valley flattens out when they disperse. A few good campspots exist soon after the start of the flat valley. Travel on the true right remains good. Eventually bush gives out to scrub and you're best using the riverbed or either bank until the start of the clearings in the head of the valley are reached. More good campspots exist on dry land on the river banks at the start of clearings.

There are more streams in the head of the valley than the map indicates. The best route through the lower band of bluffs seems to be up a deer trail which zigzags through thick scrub between the SE fork shown on the map and another larger one 100m east of it. Once past the scrub you reach gentler tussock faces at around 900m. Here it is necessary to cross the creek indicated on the map before it gorges out, and find a route up onto the spur on its north west side. This climb is steep and exposed and will likely involve 20m or so of hauling yourself up by tussocks and flax with exposure to falls below.

Once above the second line of bluffs travel is simple on moderately steep faces of short tussock NW of the creek, curling round the head basin to sidle onto the pass at its summit.

The descent into the head basin of the Wapiti is simple down modertely steep scree and tussock faces on the south side of the valley, avoiding sheer bluffs to the north. Once in the basin, cross the creek at the bushedge and bash your way down the north side of the creek in extremely steep country past a series of waterfalls. There are deer trails through here, but many die out at sheer dropoffs, hence some nosing around may be required to find a viable route. Expect hand-over-hand climbing through near-vertical scrub - but nothing too exposed owing to the amount of vegetation.

Once on the main valley floor, proceed to the main Wapiti River, and follow it down. Generally the best deer trails are on the true right, though crossing in places can aid travel. A few marginal campspots exists well above the lake.

A long thin clearing heads due west 100m before Lake Sutherland - follow it rather than continuing to the boggy lake shore, and cut round the head of the lake. Progress here is painfully slow in tangled bush or knee deep marsh on the lakeshore. 3 or 4 channels enter the lake from the west - and are best crossed 100m-200m from the lake where they are not too deep. Finally gain the bush at the base of slopes on the west side of the lake and sidle the lakeshore south - the best travel generally being 10m-20m above the lake.

Below Lake Sutherland travel continues on the true right fo the river - with vast fields of boulders and windfall to negotiate above Rum Gully. Travel improves briefly below Rum Gully until the river enters a gorge 1km from the George Sound Track. From here stay high - do not drop into the gorge but follow deer trails on the terraces at around 400m until you can cut SSW to hit the George Sound Track.

The track can be followed the remaining 1km or so to (Lake) Thom(p)son Hut - the spelling and exact name of which seems to be confused between various sources.

The hut lies just up a brief waterfall from a signposted turnoff on the main track and could easily be missed.

Glaisnock to Henderson Burn head basin: 6km, 3-6hrs
Henderson Burn head basin to pass: 1km, 1.5-3 hrs
pass to Wapiti River top forks: 2km, 2-4 hrs
Wapiti top forks to Thomson Hut: 4-8 hrs

(lower times are my own, upper an estimate of DOC-equivalent times)

Last updated by: Madpom at 2019-04-03 19:03:25. Experienced: 2019-03-08

From Lake Thomson Hut to George Sound Hut via George Sound Track
Distance: 11.9 km (11.5 DOC hours) - Marked route - Moderate terrain
Altitude: 3m to 863m. Gain: 631m. Loss: 920m . Gradient: 7 deg (Moderate-hard)
Skills: Occasional scrambles (3/7) - Streams (2/6)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

This route is described in Moir's Guide South. Ed 7. Pg 88. Thompson Hut to Henry Saddle

The George Sound track is generally well marked, but not so well cut - with DOC now classifying it as a marked route.

Follow the marked track up the true left of the Rugged Burn, with a brief 100m climb into the upper valley. After another 2.5km the track crosses the burn to marshy flat on the true right before heading to the western valleyside and commencing its climb. The climb is more convoluted than indicated on the map - climbing moderately steeply up a spur before swinging south across a small creek just beyond which are good dry campspots on a grassy knob.

The track finally swings up the remaining valley for a gentler climb to the pass. Camping is possible on the pass by the lake - I've seen photos - but dry ground is very limited.

West of Henry Pass the now unmarked route follows the north shore of the lake before swinging slightly north onto the spur 20m north of the valley - the route to which is cairned. The carined route drops over a series of rock outcrops and scrub basins before depositing you at the top fo the waterfall draining Henry Pass into the Katherine. Markers 10m down the fall and on the opposite side indicate where you need to go - its a brief exposed scramble to get there. The route then zigzags down the sheer face on the true left of the creek with numerous steep scrambles involved before finally reaching the safety of the head basin below. Good campspots exist just after the crossing of the creek draining Marguerite Peaks.

The track follows the true left of the creek for a bit before ending at the stone and gravel riverbed, from where a few hundred meters of river travel follow encouraged by occasional markers. Look out for the point where the track resumes, indicated by 2 small triangles on a tree on the true right. A second descent - less steep this time, follows to the next level of the valley where sometimes swampy, sometimes bouldery flats lead to the head of Lake Katherine.

The sidle round Katherine is moderately steep and unmarked on debris faces below sheer bluffs mand takes longer than you may expect.

Once at the west end of the lake, cut onto the beach as early as possible and follow it half way round the base of the lake, looking out for 3 triangles on a tree indicating where the track recommences.

The track crosses the debris field which retains the lake before dropping and sidling the next gorge all the way to the walkwire. George Sound Hut lies 300m beyond on the shore of George Sound - an idyllic spot, if it weren't for the sandflies.

Thomson Hut - Henry Pass, 6km, 3-5 hrs
Henry Pass to Lake Katherine outlet, 7km, 3-5 hrs
Lake Katherine to George Sound Hut 2km, 1-1.5 hr

Last updated by: Madpom at 2019-03-21 10:14:04. Experienced: 2019-03-09

Distance: 7.5 km (13.0 DOC hours) - Unmarked route, hard - Hard terrain
Altitude: 1m to 858m. Gain: 924m. Loss: 773m . Gradient: 13 deg (Moderate-hard)
Skills: Prolonged scrambles (4/7) - Prolonged rivers (4/6)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

This route is best travelled at low tide - at high tide it will be a long bush-bash to Overlander Stream.

Follow the shore west from George Sound Hut - crossing the generally small and well braided Katherine Stream. It is possible to remain on the shore for about 1.5km with a few brief climbs or wades round boulders. About 400m before Overlander Stream the shore becomes sheer. Make a steep ascent 60m or so up the gully before the bluffed section, ensuring that you are high enough to round the head of the following guts and bluffs, before following deer trails sidling down to meet the shore at the Overlander mouth.

Moirs describes a route round the shore for a further 600m to behind island '22' followed by a sidle below and through bluffs to gain the base of the spur climbing south. I could find no way of following this route that did not involve swimming. Instead I took Moir's advice that a '400m scramble' from 'the bay' will gain the ridgeline. Sadly the guide does not say which bay (Overlander, or the small one to its north) nor does it make mention the various layers of bluffs that must be negotiated on the way.

I climbed the face behind the small bay north of Overlander stream, winding my way generally south as I hit each ascending line of bluffs until progress south was blocked, at which point a seriously steep scramble through the last line of bluffs was required to reach gentler slopes above. I do not recommend this route, but can confirm that it is possible. Maybe the faces a bit up Overlander Stream would be easier?

Once on the ridgeline a series of steep, scrubby, untracked climbs and plateaus lead finally to pt564 - where good solid deer trails commence. From pt564 south travel up Overlander Spur is straight forward on good deer trails through first bush and later low scrub and rock slabs. Good view points exist in scrubby clearings around 1km before pt886. Good dry campspots exist here, if the various small water holes hold water - but note that they are reported to dry out.

500m before pt886 a creek drains east off the ridge, providing water and swampy going. Beyond, deer trails became fragmented and a few hundred meters of bush bashing was required to reach the 886m highpoint where more clearings awaited.

Drop briefly SE off pt886 until a dropoff is reached with bush below. Swing south along the escarpment and pick up the spur dropping first south then SSW as indicated on the map. Keep on the spur close to the steep dropoffs to the west, rather than dropping onto the confused eastern face. A creek forms to your left and you need to ensure you end up on its true left before it gorges deeply out and drops away to the valley to the west. Follow the spur on the true left of the small creek, dropping just east of south towards the basin below. There are small tarns where the spur hits flats (200m SE of pt575), and allegedly viable campspots.

From the tarns continue to drop just east of south into the head of a significant creek. This is NOT a continuation of Ethne Stream (but is indicated as such on current LINZ topomaps) as you'll find out as you drop. Continue to descend south, following either the very steep creekbed, or the very steep spur on its true right, sticking close to the creek. At about 400m the creek swings west and drops towards the South West Arm in a series of waterfalls. It is necessary to cross the creek to the true left bank just at the head of these falls - a sole surviving red permolat marker still marked this point (2019). After crossing the creek, sidle the face, dropping south and picking your way down through various strata of bluffs until you are NE of Ethne Saddle and maybe 40m above it, at which point you can swing SW down the spur to the saddle itself.

From Ethne Saddle drop SE into what is truly Ethne Stream - there are few deer trails and it may be slow going. Follow the initially boggy stream down until good deer trails climb the true left bank - follow these as they climb onto the terrace east of the stream and then follow it down to its confluence with the Stillwater.

There was formerly a walkwire over the Stillwater at the exit of the gorge at this point. Now, however, the best crossing is on a good shallow gravel bar downstream of the pool, 200-300m downstream of the falls.

Good dry campspots exist on the silt banks of the stillwater on either bank - you can find spots 4m above the river level, but having witnessed the river rise 2m after one day of rain - be aware that they may flood in extreme weather.

George Sound Hut to Overlabder Stream: 2km, 1.5-2.5 hrs
Overlander Stream to pt 886: 3km, 3-5 hrs
Pt 886 to Ethne Saddle: 2km, 2-4 hrs
Ethne Saddle to Stillwater-Ethne forks, 1km, 1-2 hrs

Last updated by: Madpom at 2019-04-03 19:12:21. Experienced: 2019-03-10

Distance: 2.3 km (2.0 DOC hours) - Unmarked route, clear - Moderate-hard terrain
Altitude: 152m to 193m. Gain: 54m. Loss: 32m . Gradient: 2 deg (Gentle)
Skills: Occasional scrambles (3/7) - Streams (2/6)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

From the former swingbridge site at the lower end of the Stillwater Gorge, continue up river on the true left (south) bank. As the valley gorges out the key seems to be to sidle 20-30m above the river on steep forested faces without ending up above bluffs that run just above that height. About half way through the gorge a large rock shelf exists on the true left beside the river and it is safe to descend from the face onto this. Crossing a small gut just upstream of the shelf at the height of the bushedge, it is then possible to sidle just above the river, just in the trees until the gorge ends and the valley opens to broad swamp and pepperleaf-scrub flats.

River crossing points upstream of the gorge are numerous with frequent good gravel bars - so the ideal option seems to be to head upriver alternating banks to take advantage of the most open bits of travel - generally on the true right - crossing to the true left again at the base of the Twin Falls. If river levels are high, it is possible to remain on the true left and fight the scrub all the way.

Stillwater Gorge traverse - 1-2 hrs

Last updated by: Madpom at 2019-04-03 19:16:12. Experienced: 2019-03-11

Distance: 7.3 km (10.0 DOC hours) - Unmarked route, clear - Hard terrain
Altitude: 174m to 1102m. Gain: 980m. Loss: 221m . Gradient: 10 deg (Moderate-hard)
Skills: Occasional scrambles (3/7) - Occasional rivers (3/6)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

The falls at the base of Twin Falls Creek are ascended on the true left (west) side. Good deer trails climb steeply at times in bush on the spur just to the west of a small open stream-bed that descends 20m west of the main falls themselves. Once above the slipped-out section of the small creek, cut left (east) across its head and follow deer trails up the spur adjacent to the main river, leading to gentler faces sidling above the gorged section of valley above the falls. Remain sidling the face until the flat valley has opened up below you before cutting onto the valley floor and seeking out the river.

After a few hundred meters of following the deep / rocky river through boulder and windfall clogged bush flats, the riverbed becomes shallow, flat and gravelly with good beaches. From this point up the easiest route is to walk the beaches, wading the river from one to the next.

Excellent camp spots exist on open, dry, grassy clearings level with the base of the spur where the valley swings west - though these clearly flood in extreme weather conditions.

Above the small clearings, the valley starts to climb again and travel in the riverbed is no longer an option. There are intermittent deer trails on the true left (south) bank and progress from here seems easiest on this bank - though slow and often scrubby going.

For the lower of the two saddles (pt1099), pick up the spur climbing just upriver of the creek draining the pass, which can be hard to spot in thick bush with numerous small sidecreeks not shown on the map. If you come to a creek draining a large open slipped-out gully of rock and debris then you've just gone past it.

My route was to ascend the spur on the north side of the basin draining the pass. There are good deer trails up this from the point it starts to climb steeply, though locating its base can be tricky. You get frequent good glimpses to the 'lip' of the head basin as you climb. Drawing level with the lip of this basin (there is a small clear knob here if you are right on the spur) follow deer trails sidling level with/just below the basin lip into the head basin.

The head basin itself is choked with near-impenetrable scrub, but intermittent deer trails follow the bushedge across the lip, crossing creek which drains the basin and then climbing south, sometimes just inside bush, sometimes just in the scrub. Aim to climb to the last (most up-valley) beech tree on a small knob maybe 50m into the scrub on the southern valleside. From here an excellent deer trail cuts through very thick scrub climbing due south up the face until it exits scrub into tussock and low-scrub below the bluffs. Climb south to maybe 20m below the base of bluffs following the hard-to-spot trail through the tussock until you pick up a trail which makes a sidling climb to the pass at pt1099. The last section to the pass is moderately steep up a choice of rock-scree or snowgrass.

A gentle tussock valley drains the SE side of the pass to Lake Wapiti, with a good deer trail running down it. The trail drops a spur on the true right of the creek to the basin below, where the easiest travel seems to be on the dry, stable, scrub-free banks of the creek.

A few small camp spots exist on shoulders where the creek makes its final descent 40m into the lake. Alternatively tarns exist on the terrace 20m up the southern valleyside promising large dry campspots.

Base of twin falls - Lake Wapiti - 6-10 hrs

Last updated by: Madpom at 2019-04-03 19:21:16. Experienced: 2019-03-11

Distance: 5.8 km (8.0 DOC hours) - Unmarked route, hard - Easy-moderate terrain
Altitude: 937m to 1602m. Gain: 831m. Loss: 753m . Gradient: 16 deg (Moderate-hard)
Skills: Occasional scrambles (3/7)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

If weather is good, the simplest route between Lake Wapiti and Kiwi Flat / the Doon-Large Burn saddle is via the summit of Mt Donald. However, note that good visibility is required for the descent to Kiwi Flat where multiple overlapping bluff-lines must be navigated.

From the western head of Lake Wapiti, follow the creek west and up towards the Twin Falls saddle, cutting NW up the face where the valley swings north towards the pass. The route is obvious in clear weather, zigzagging between steep bluffed sections on first snowgrass and later stable scree to reach the ridgeline maybe 400m west of the saddle. From here, follow the ridgeline up as it climbs to Mt Donald on snowgrass and later rock-scree.

Mt Donald offers amazing views of the sounds, Lake Te Anau, north past Mt Earnslaw and east to the Remakabales and beyond.

Follow the main ridgeline WSW off the summit of Donald for maybe 600m to where rock changes from grey to red-orange. At this point a scree face or initially red rock drops on the Kiwi Flat side heading directly towards the northern end of the Large Burn saddle visible below, cutting diagonally across the face. Follow this scree face down until it bluffs out, at which point you need to cut back east below bluffs to get close to the gully you have crossed - where you can drop through the next line bluffs. Some minor zigzagging gets you down to the first of several small tussock terraces, which can be descended-from near its western end. Access to the larger tussock terrace visible on the map is back east again near the creek. There is a lot of zig-zagging and route-spying involved in this descent, and it takes time.

From the broad tussock terrace overlooking Kiwi Flat, a small obvious gut climbs briefly and steeply to the northern end of the saddle with the Large Burn. Once on the saddle follow the ridgeline south past numerous tarns to the lowest point on the saddle - at the head of the small valley draining the southern-most end of the saddle SW into the Large Burn.

There are numerous small tarns on the saddle and most have good dry camping. Most are exposed to the westerly, but a couple at the northern end are more sheltered from that side.

Lake Wapiti - Mt Donald summit: 3km, 2-4 hrs
Mt Donald to terrace above Kiwi Flat: 2km, 1.5-2.5 hrs
Kiwi Flat to Large Burn saddle: 1km, 1-1.5 hrs

Last updated by: Madpom at 2019-04-03 19:25:21. Experienced: 2019-03-12

Distance: 2.2 km (4.5 DOC hours) - Unmarked route, hard - Moderate terrain
Altitude: 103m to 1014m. Gain: 25m. Loss: 936m . Gradient: 27 deg (Steep)
Skills: Prolonged scrambles (4/7)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

Moirs describes a somewhat different route up from the Large Burn to the saddle with the Doon. However, locating the start of that route defeated me when attempting it in reverse. The following route is a far easier one to follow int the downward direction.

From the southernmost end of the Large Burn - Doon saddle, drop into the valley which drains SW into the Large Burn (or follow deer trails down the spur to it's north) into the bush-clad basin below. At about 800m the creek drops vertically via waterfalls towards the Large Burn below. Cross the head of the falls to their true left (southern) side where you'll find a good deer trail following the terrace south. After maybe 50-80m a deer trail drops west off the terrace, descending steeply but safely through the bluffs between the 700m and 800m contours.

Once below the bluffs and on gentle slopes I regained Moir's route by making a descending sidle north across the valleyside, crossing the creek we followed earlier, following the prominent spur beyond it before dropping off that into the open creek to its north which I met just above the 300m contourline. Crossing to the north of this second creek and sidling 50-80m north of it good deer trails dropped west again through the lower layer of bluffs between the 200m and 300m contour lines, depositing me on the valley floor. From here it was a simple case to follow dry rocky creekbeds and deer trails SW to hit the bend int he Large Burn.

Moir's speaks of good safe campspots at the base of this descent, but the only ones I found were on dry, floodable creekbeds and had no nearby water. Maybe you need to nose around.

I have no idea if the long sidle north once below the upper bluff system was required, or whether I could have continued directly down deer trails south of the creek and found a way through the lower bluff system.

Pass - river: 2.5-4 hrs

Created by: Madpom on 2019-03-21. Experienced: 2019-03-12

Distance: 12.9 km (11.0 DOC hours) - Unmarked route, hard - Moderate-hard terrain
Altitude: 99m to 926m. Gain: 874m. Loss: 816m . Gradient: 8 deg (Moderate-hard)
Skills: Prolonged scrambles (4/7)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

From the bend 2km below Lake MacKinnon deer trails initially follow both banks of the Large Burn upriver on river flats. However as the river starts to climb towards the lake outlet ground becomes steep and bouldery and it is necessary to sidle the base of faces on the true right of the river generally 10-20m above the river. These faces can be followed to the back of the small bay avoiding swampy ground at the lake outlet, before dropping to the lakeside flats and bashing through to the lakeshore where there should now be good gravel beaches.

Follow good gravel beaches south along the lakeshore. There are numerous grassy flats behind the beaches, but all are only 1-2m above the lake and reportedly flood - and have no high land nearby to escape to. For those wishing to camp, there are a couple of good flat spots back in bush on the peninsula half way round the lake: 5m or so above the lake level and on a good spur that could be ascended in case of water levels rising, and only 10-15m behind the beach.

The final 800m of lake shore is steep and must be sidled across steep faces littered with windfall. On slip provides additional challenges with the best crossing at the time I visited being about 30m above the lake.

Above the lake the flats are initially marshy and thick with pepperleaf scrub, but soon firm up as you head upriver. Reasonable deer trails head up the true right bank providing ok (for Fiordland) travel until 1km below the head forks. As the valley starts to climb, deer trails peter out and you are left scrambling boulder-strewn flats and pushing through thick undergrowth and windfall (again).

The head forks are obvious with the creek splitting initially in 3 (the western-most branch forks again 20m upstream making the 4 forks shown on the map). The route to the saddle is up the spur just south of the fork which heads due west. Deer trails are initially patchy but firm up as you climb due west, sticking on the small spur near to the western creek and swinging south with it as the creek swings that way. Windfall on the narrow upper spur proves challenging as there is no real way round it and some steep, exposed scrambles result to reach the bushedge.

Bluffs are visible just above the bushedge, and a reasonable deer trail follows the base of these bluffs climbing south to hit the saddle at its north-western end, dropping occasionally to sidle int he thick scrub. Once on the saddle an easy stroll takes you down swampy grassy flats to the basin draining into the Irene. There are viable dry-ish campspots on the saddle near boggy tarns.

The obvious spur shown on the map dropping from pt962 to knob pt559 is steep and bluffed in places and has no deer trails. The key seems to be to descend the face just north of the obvious spur and aim to hit the swampy saddle behind pt559. Once on pt559 clear deer trails commence and descent the at-time very steep spur to the Irene below, exiting into the sidecreek just south of the spur maybe 50m from the main river. The entire descent is very slow in hard terrain and vegetation - allow plenty of time.

Cut south across the rocky fan debris to reach the bottom end of broad open flats in the Irene. Good, flat, dry, well-used campspots exist in grassy clearings amongst young beech on the western bank - through these presumably flood in extreme conditions.

Base of Doon valley pass to Lake MacKinnon beaches: 3km, 2-3 hrs
Lake MacKinnon beaches to Large Burn - Irene saddle: 8km, 6-10 hrs
Large Burn - Irene Saddle to Irene valley flats: 2km, 2.5-3.5 hrs

Last updated by: Madpom at 2019-03-21 17:40:22. Experienced: 2019-03-13

Distance: 2.1 km (2.0 DOC hours) - Unmarked route, clear - Moderate terrain
Altitude: 160m to 214m. Gain: 57m. Loss: 3m . Gradient: 2 deg (Gentle)
Skills: - Occasional rivers (3/6)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

The Irene flats can easily be ascended on grassy flats and in the gravel riverbed until the valley starts to narrow and climb at their southern end. From here progress is up the true left bank which is bouldery but generally open. The terrain opening up on the eastern valleyside lets you know where the creek dropping from Robin Saddle hits the Irene

Bottom of Irene flats to Robin forks: 2km, 1-2 hrs

Created by: Madpom on 2019-03-21. Experienced: 2019-03-14

Distance: 2.7 km (3.0 DOC hours) - Unmarked route, clear - Moderate terrain
Altitude: 217m to 892m. Gain: 675m. Loss: 17m . Gradient: 15 deg (Moderate-hard)
Skills: Occasional scrambles (3/7) - Occasional rivers (3/6)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

The river draining Robin Saddle into the Irene is gorged and impassable, but good deer trails climb the true left (southern) bank from the forks and sidle up the valley 40m or so above the river for 100-200m, before swinging SW to climb a minor spur up the valleyside. The steady climb brings you onto gentler sloping faces above 400m. Locating a deer trail which sidles these upriver is the key - they exist but can be tricky to find. There is thick ferny undergrowth and locating a trail really helps. Sidle the valleyside climbing gently from 400m to 500m as you travel upvalley, remaining below bluffs. As the valley opens the gradient lessens and the valley floor becomes more open but bouldery/mossy. Ephemeral deer trails continue up the true left of the creek sticking close to the stream.

Pass the two creeks shown entering from the south and climb the spur immediately east of the creek draining Robin Saddle. This is steep in places and poorly tracked until you reach the scrub layer at around 800m. A good deer trail leads from the head of the spur zigzagging through 50m-or-so of thick scrub to climb onto the first of many rocky shelves on the terrace above. The remaining kilometer to the hut is an easy walk connecting these rocky shelves via tussock clearings and low knee-high scrub bands.

Robin Saddle Hut lies on the south side of the small creek, just upstream of pt904 and has to be one of the most wonderfully remote and beautiful hut sites in NZ.

Created by: Madpom on 2019-03-21. Experienced: 2019-03-14

From Robin Saddle Hut to Lake Eva outflow via Te Au saddle and tops
Distance: 14.0 km (16.0 DOC hours) - Unmarked route, clear - Easy-moderate terrain
Altitude: 877m to 1522m. Gain: 1506m. Loss: 1466m . Gradient: 12 deg (Moderate-hard)
Skills: Occasional scrambles (3/7)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

An exposed (to weather) but technically unchallenging tops route follows the ridgeline south from Robin Saddle Hut to Lakes Ione and Eva. This route follows the boundary of the Takahe "Special Protected Area" and at a few places stray into the exclusion zone by up to 300m - specifically when bypassing pt 1634 and pt1408. This means that a permit may be required to walk this route, and you should probably consult DOC Te Anau to see if they require one for these brief sections. Pt 1408 could probably be bypassed also to the west, but the traverse east of pt1634 is probably unavoidable.

From Robin Saddle Hut head south over pt1097 through a maze of bluffs, tarns, rock gullies and sinkholes. Swing SE to join the main ridgeline and climb it over pt 1319 and pt 1335 before swinging west again to the base of the climb to pt1547. A brief bluff layer low down on pt1547 is mentioned as 'problematic' in Moir's but a simple, steep snowgrass and tussock gully climbs through it with just a few meters of scrambling to reach gentler faces on the north-facing slopes above. Regain the spur and follow it up into the scree basin below pt1547. A gently sloping terrace of rock slabs lies SE of the peak. Make a sidling climb of this terrace to regain the ridgeline at the saddle between pt1547 and pt1526. Follow the ridgeline over pt1526 before sidling again on the SE face below pt1577. Attain the second (western) of two spurs dropping SSW towards Te Au Saddle - making the direct line between pt1577 and pt1144. Follow the spur down, nosing your way down through bluff layers sometime on the spur, sometimes int he creek to its west.

Climb the spur SE from Te Au Saddle and cut onto its western face to pass through the saddle at pt1151 rather than climbing to pt1285. Pt1408 can easily be bypassed in the two valleys to its east before climbing to the ridgeline between pt1329 and the main divide. Cut west below the bluffed face of pt1408 to reach the tarns SW of the peak.

Pt 1370 is bypassed to the west. Cross the saddle to the creek draining west immediately before the climb to pt1370. Follow this creek west, sticking to the true left close to the creek until you have dropped through the bluff layers to gentle faces at around 1050m. Moir's details a steep route down into the East Cozette from this point.

To continue to Lake Eva - make a sidling climb south up the scrubby-tussock faces below the pluffs of pt1370 and pt1694, heading for the saddle NE of pt1384. Pts 1384, pt 1383 and pt1491 can be crossed on the ridgeline. Great camping exists by numerous small tarns in this region - being careful to remain outside the Takahe SPA.

Drop to the saddle SW of pt1491 and descend the steep rocky gut SE towards Lake Ione until you hit the terraces visible on the map at around 1290m. Sidle these terraces south and onto the spur which leads to Macpherson Pass. At around 1150m drop west off the spur down the face heading for the narrow isthmus between Lakes Ione and Eva. The descent is moderately steep but not exposed on good tussock if you get it right.

The south shore of Lake Ione can be followed either on scrubby banks or in the water to the low tussock saddle leading to the outflow of Lake Eva. Reasonable dry campspots exist on the spur on the true left of the creek draining the lake before it drops to the scrubby basin below.

Robin Saddle to Te Au Saddle: 6km, 4-6 hrs
Te Au Saddle to 'East Cozette Shelf' (west pf pt1370): 4km, 2-3 hrs
East Cozette shelf to Lake Eva outflow: 5.5km, 5-7 hrs

Created by: Madpom on 2019-03-21. Experienced: 2019-03-15

From Lake Eva outflow to Lake Boomerang via Gorge Burn
Distance: 3.0 km (6.0 DOC hours) - Unmarked route, hard - Hard terrain
Altitude: 641m to 915m. Gain: 100m. Loss: 374m . Gradient: 9 deg (Moderate-hard)
Skills: Occasional scrambles (3/7) - Streams (2/6)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

The Gorge Burn is scrubby, windfall-choked and covered in boulder debris. Progress is slow. You have been warned.

From Lake Eva follow either bank of the creek down into the scrubby basin below on good deer trails. Pick up a faint deer trail climbing to the saddle west of pt852 and dropping through the steep country to its east. This trail is faint and scrubby and slow.

The creek bed may briefly be followed from downstream of pt852 until the next debris dam is reached, beyond which you are back on bouldery scrubby valley sides scrambling downriver. There are few if any deer trails and progress is slow. A large open area or rock debris covers half of the valley for the last few hundred meters to the head of Lake Boomerang and provides briefly easier travel.

At the head of the lake, climb the scree/rubble gully on the true left of the lakehead to around 710m - just below the continuous line of bluffs. Sidle downvalley through steep windfall-clogged beech at this altitude. Deer trails will appear and lead you to climb slightly over bluffs which appear beneath you through fairly open scrub. Back in the bush continue a tangled sidle at this altitude until you reach the first of two slips which drop sheer into the lake. These should be easily crossed at your current height of around 710m where they both have gentle basins. Drop steeply through beech forest immediately after the second slip - the descent is steep but there are no bluffs to negotiate if you get the route right. At 20-30m above the lake the face becomes gentler. Sidle these gentle slopes down-valley at this height, remaining below bluffs and resisting the temptation to drop to the lake until you can see good flat valley floor beside the lake near its outflow. Drop to the lake outlet and cross it to open grassy clearings on the true right.

These grassy flats provide one of only two realistic camp spots in the lower valley - the other being at the head of Lake Cecil.

Lake Eva to Lake Boomerang outflow: 3km, 3-6 hrs

Created by: Madpom on 2019-03-21. Experienced: 2019-03-15

From Lake Boomerang to Gorge river mouth via Gorge Burn
Distance: 5.4 km (7.0 DOC hours) - Unmarked route, clear - Hard terrain
Altitude: 203m to 666m. Gain: 125m. Loss: 563m . Gradient: 7 deg (Moderate)
Skills: Occasional scrambles (3/7)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

From the Lake Boomerang outflow continue down the true right of Gorge Burn. Vegetation is thick, boggy, bouldery and windfallen and progress is slow with few deer trails at first.

Grassy flats at the head of Lake Cecil provide opportunities to camp.

The shores of Lake Cecil are steep and/or boggy and it is advisable to climb onto the terrace south of the lake, descending to the mouth of the creek entering the lake from the south where a boggy crossing is required. The remaining shore can be sidled 10-20m above the lake.

Continue down the lower valley sidling the southern valleyside negotiating a series of debris dams as you progress downstream. As the river begins to gorge out 1.5km from the lake, deer trails begin to appear, sidling at about 440m onto the broad terrace leading to pt556. Follow this terrace, climbing slightly. Drop NE down the spur 100m prior to reaching pt556. This spur descends parallel to the river, passing the falls 50m or so to their south. There are reasonable deer trails. A cut walking track can be picked up from the falls to the lakeshore at the river mouth.

Lake Boomerang outflow to Lake Cecil head: 1.5km, 1-2 hrs
Lake Cecil head to Gorge River mouth: 4.5km, 3-5 hrs.

Created by: Madpom on 2019-03-21. Experienced: 2019-03-17

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