Length: from 3.0 up to 5.0 days
Distance: 35.1 km (27.5 DOC hours) - Unmarked route, hard - Moderate terrain
Altitude: 362m to 1711m. Gain: 4593m. Loss: 4202m . Gradient: 15 deg (Moderate-hard)
Skills: Occasional scrambles (3/7) - Streams (2/5) Winter - Snow/ice underfoot, avalanche risk (3/7)

A six-passes trip through the Humboldt Mountains - parallel to the Routeburn.

Six moderate-hard untracked passes: Scott-Kay Saddle, Kay-Death saddle, Death-Double Barrel Saddle, Doble-Barrel-Fraser Col, Fraser Col, Emily Pass. Probably Emily Pass is the hardest of these requiring steep climbs on slippery snowgrass above bluffs. Death Valley contains a glacier - just about - and an ice-axe is recommended for both this and the Emily Pass sections.

Not for beginners, not those unfamiliar with NZ conditions - but a good challenging alternative to the Routeburn, with a similar timeframe for the fit.


Distance: 6.3 km (6.0 DOC hours) - Unmarked route, clear - Moderate terrain
Altitude: 362m to 1482m. Gain: 1311m. Loss: 191m . Gradient: 14 deg (Moderate-hard)
Skills: Alpine weather (2/7) - Streams (2/5)
GPX info source: Uploaded from GPS

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.

Created by: Yarmoss on 2015-06-09. Experienced: 2015-01-18
Last updated by: Madpom at 2018-02-04 01:30:39. Experienced: 2018-01-26

Distance: 2.1 km (2.0 DOC hours) - Unmarked route, clear - Moderate terrain
Altitude: 1407m to 1676m. Gain: 282m. Loss: 347m . Gradient: 18 deg (Moderate)
Skills: Occasional scrambles (3/7) - Streams (2/5)
GPX info source: Uploaded from GPS

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.

Created by: Yarmoss on 2015-06-09. Experienced: 2014-01-28
Last updated by: Madpom at 2018-02-04 02:54:44. Experienced: 2017-12-07

Distance: 9.8 km (8.0 DOC hours) - Unmarked route, clear - Easy-moderate terrain
Altitude: 1043m to 1711m. Gain: 1725m. Loss: 1911m . Gradient: 22 deg (Moderate-hard)
Skills: Occasional scrambles (3/7) - Streams (2/5)
GPX info source: Uploaded from GPS

From the forks in the head of Death Valley, climb the northern branch of the valley towards the col between pt 1951 and pt1933. For those coming from the tarn in the east branch it is not necessary to descend to the forks - the northern valley side can be sidled from 50m below the tarn into the north branch.

Climb over the large wall of terminal moraine and drop onto the remains of the Death Valley glacier. This was 10m wide & 4m thick when I visited in late Jan - but provides preferable travel to loose unstable moraine beside it. Climb the glacier to the valley head - an ice-axe is advisable.

From the col, descend into the head basin of Double Barrel down steep scree slopes. The creek soon cuts into a gorged series of cascades - but good grassy terraces bypass the falls on the true left, leading to a broad scree ramp giving access down to the main valley. The valley floor is scrubby - but the creek was dry for most of its length when I visited (late Jan) and gave good travel.

To access the Fraser you are best following the creek down to the forks with the side-creek draining the pass into the Fraser, and then returning back up that creek to the pass. The 'short cut' indicated on my route is steep and exposed and not recommended. The last 200m to the pass are on steep unstable scree and are hard going - an ice-axe is recommended or poles.

Note, you are aiming for the southern of the two passes - a potential route does exists to the northern pass but it involves climbing a steep scree chute and a sidle across a narrow ledge and may-or-may-not 'go'.

From the pass with the Fraser, good stable scree leads down into the valley head where two basins separated by lateral moraine lie. I took the true left basin and followed it down to the valley floor, but wither will go ok.

Note: For those headed for the Fraser-Emily Col it is not necessary to descend all the way to the valley floor- sidle the northern faces just below steep bluffs to access the gut leading to the pass 100m above the valley floor.

Kay Saddle - Fraser: 4-8hrs

Created by: Madpom on 2018-02-04. Experienced: 2018-01-27
Last updated by: Madpom at 2018-02-05 16:41:51. Experienced: 2018-01-27

Distance: 1.7 km (2.5 DOC hours) - Unmarked route, clear - Moderate terrain
Altitude: 981m to 1544m. Gain: 563m. Loss: 0m . Gradient: 20 deg (Moderate-hard)
Skills: Occasional scrambles (3/7) - Streams (2/5)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

Note: The south side of Fraser Col usually holds snow well into summer and an ice axe might be required, although after a mild winter this is all gone by January.

From the small flats in the upper Fraser Valley you can continue to follow the creek up through the scrub to reach a vast tongue of scree and talus which descends right down from Fraser Col and go up from there, or you can do as I did which is head a short way up stream and then climb talus up the western side of the valley to eventually climb above the scrub belt, and then climb and sidle northwards up the valley, eventually hitting the rubble coming down from Fraser Col at about the 1300m mark. Climb from here straight up to the top of the col, 2.5 hours from the flats.

Created by: Yarmoss on 2015-06-09. Experienced: 2015-01-21
Last updated by: Madpom at 2018-02-04 02:53:23. Experienced: 2015-01-21

Distance: 0.9 km (0.5 DOC hours) - Unmarked route, hard - Easy-moderate terrain
Altitude: 1460m to 1599m. Gain: 329m. Loss: 295m . Gradient: 45 deg (Moderate)
Skills: Occasional scrambles (3/7) - Streams (2/5)
GPX info source: Uploaded from GPS

From Fraser col head westwards to observe moderate tussock slopes coming down from Emily Peak above. Traverse westwards across the slopes, roughly maintaining height, descending into and out of several gullies along the way. and passing beneath all bluffs except for the ones at the bottom of the gullies. Climbing out of the largest gully will deposit you on the true right side of the large gut which the normal route up to Emily Pass heads up. Drop down scree into the gut between the big and small waterfall and climb up to the smaller one at the head of the gut. Climb here up a nearly vertical rock and grass face beside the waterfall, then sidle to the right (north) to reach easier grass slopes. Climb these to the southwest to gain Emily Pass.

Created by: Yarmoss on 2015-06-09. Experienced: 2015-01-21
Last updated by: Madpom at 2018-02-04 01:31:36. Experienced: 2018-01-28

Distance: 4.0 km (3.5 DOC hours) - Unmarked route, clear - Moderate terrain
Altitude: 889m to 1601m. Gain: 26m. Loss: 734m . Gradient: 11 deg (Moderate-hard)
Skills: Occasional scrambles (3/7) - Streams (2/5)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

Note: an ice axe should be carried for the south side of Emily Pass which usually holds snow well into summer.

The south side of the pass is usually snow bound until February but mild winters can mean it's snow free by mid Jan. Descend steep snow or rock/scree to the flat area above 1400m and then drop down the western side on more steep slopes to the large flat area at 1200m. This is usually snow free by December and has great camping here as well as 2 rock bivvys. The steep slope dropping down from here can be negotiated on snow grass on its south side but better travel is to be had by passing through the boulders to the southwest and dropping down scree.

The stream shown on the map is a dry water course. Enter it and follow it all the way down the valley to avoid scrub. It abruptly becomes a wet stream where the map shows the start of the Lake Mackenzie depression. There's flat ground for camping here but its a frigid location first thing in the morning due to cold air pooling, even in late summer, and you might be shooed away by a DOC ranger if you are spotted from the zigzags exiting the Lake Mackenzie basin. Much better off camping an hour up the hill at 1200m. Follow the stream on down to the lake edge. A green plastic sign vaguely marks the start of an, initially, rough trail down the eastern side of the lake. The location of the trail varies over the course of the summer as the lake level drops and more people visit the head of the lake. Push down the trail to the Split Rock boulder where a good quality track carries on past the Lake Mackenzie DOC campsite and on to Mackenzie Hut.

Created by: Yarmoss on 2018-02-04. Experienced: 2014-12-13
Last updated by: Madpom at 2018-02-04 02:54:12. Experienced: 2014-12-13

Distance: 7.5 km (4.0 DOC hours) - Surfaced walkway - Easy terrain
Altitude: 691m to 1007m. Gain: 248m. Loss: 446m . Gradient: 5 deg (Gentle)
Skills: Alpine weather (2/7) Winter - Snow/ice underfoot, avalanche risk (3/7)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

The track leaves Mackenzie Hut and sidles the Hollyford valley, now mostly in the forest. There are a few bridges streams to cross, and Earland falls to negotiate if wet, but an easy tramp brings you to Lake Howden Hut, overlooking the lake and it's outlet.

Created by: Yarmoss on 2015-06-08. Experienced: 2015-03-04
Last updated by: Bernieq at 2015-07-06 03:07:19. Experienced: 2009-04-10

Distance: 2.9 km (1.0 DOC hours) - Surfaced walkway - Easy terrain
Altitude: 527m to 780m. Gain: 109m. Loss: 278m . Gradient: 8 deg (Moderate)
Skills:
GPX info source: Drawn on map

From Howden Hut follow the Routeburn Track up the hill and past the Key Summit turnoff, and down to the car park at the Divide. Simple!

Created by: Yarmoss on 2015-06-07. Experienced: 2015-03-05

Comments: