Length: from 7.0 up to 12.0 days
Distance: 108.7 km (66.0 DOC hours) - Unmarked route, hard - Hard terrain
Altitude: 375m to 2165m. Gain: 5558m. Loss: 5843m . Gradient: 6 deg (Steep)
Skills: Snow / ice (5/7) - Occasional rivers (3/6)

The Mt Cook Village to Makarora section of madpom's Grand Traverse of the NZ Main Divide from East Cape to West Cape.

A good tramping route with a couple of steep, high passes at Jamieson Saddle and Little Canyon - both requiring ice-axe when I visited in March 07. Other passes are untracked but low and well defined. A crossing of the Hopkins is required - which could prove tricky after rain. The Ahuriri and Hunter should be ok except in exceptional conditions.

The route starts with impressive, barren glacial scenery at the head of the Hopkins, but mellows as it progresses, taking you into typical Otago headwater country: tussock valley flats, tongues of beech climbing side creeks and valleysides. Low, well-defined passes.

From Birch Hill bridge to Reardon Hut via Jamieson Saddle
Distance: 12.7 km (13.0 DOC hours) - Unmarked route, hard - Easy-moderate terrain
Altitude: 633m to 2165m. Gain: 1545m. Loss: 1279m . Gradient: 13 deg (Steep)
Skills: Snow / ice (5/7) - Streams (2/6)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

When I walked this route in 2007 the land up Birch Hill Stream was claimed by Glentanner Stn. However, looking at WAMS it is clear that the north bank are DOC / LINZ land as far as the third sidecreek on the south, above which all land is DOC. This is a high pass with a 1600m ascent on tussock, snow and stable scree. It climbs snow chutes and would be dangerous in avalanche conditions. A good challenging late-summer route alpine route requiring ice axe, and recommended with crampons.

From the road bridge head up the north bank of Black Birch stream. All land on the north side is crown land either under DOC or LINZ. As the valley steepens, follow the main creek up, travel on tussock. As you hit the steepest section at around 1400m, take snow/scree chutes on the left-hand (southern) side of the valley. This chute curls round behind the cliffs that appear to block the centre of the gully and lead to gentler scree faces above. An ice-axe was handy on the steepest snow sections, and crampons would have made things easier.

Once at 1600m, past the steep section shown on the map, travel is straight forward up scree slopes to the pass. The last section to the pass holds snow year round but is gentler than lower slopes and ice-axe alone was sufficient in late summer.

Good views of the upper Dobson are available from the top - 1000m vertical cliffs topped by glaciers under which you must pass to descend the Dobson. (3-6 hrs)

Follow boulder-scree slopes down into the upper Dobson. Follow the river down, avoiding exposure to ice-falls from above where possible. The valley floor is littered with chunks of glacier that have come crashing down - do not linger. OK progress on recent moraine. (1.5-3hrs)

After 1.5km the valley broadens and the danger recedes. Moraine is replaced by rounded river rocks and the banks change from rock to tussock. The Hour Glass Glacier provides a spectacular backdrop to the head basin of the main Dobson valley - another ice plateau clinging above sheer bluffs. Follow the river down another 1.5km to the main forks, then another 1.5km to where the V shaped valley broadens to wider flats. Head east away from the river along the scrubedge at the head of these flats and nose around to find Reardon Hut in the 2nd basin. An amazing spot with bare ice and rock behind, valley flats and cows ahead. A point of contrast. (2-4hrs)

Last updated by: Madpom at 2016-01-03 21:52:56. Experienced: 2007-04-08

From Reardon Hut to Waterfall Hut via riverbed track
Distance: 3.6 km (2.0 DOC hours) - Unmaintained track - Easy-moderate terrain
Altitude: 815m to 897m. Gain: 24m. Loss: 82m . Gradient: 2 deg (Flat)
Skills: - Occasional rivers (3/6)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

Faint old 4WD tracks lead down river flats from Reardon Hut. Some travel on grassy flats, other parts on shingle riverbeds. Waterfall hut is tucked in a tight canyon-like valley on the east of the Dobson. The Dobson river is small and easily crossed, but could flood in rainy conditions. In the dry it disappears completely. 1-2hrs.

Created by: Madpom on 2016-01-03. Experienced: 2007-04-09

From Waterfall Hut to Kennedy Memorial Hut via riverbed track
Distance: 5.9 km (2.5 DOC hours) - Unmaintained track - Easy-moderate terrain
Altitude: 749m to 868m. Gain: 1m. Loss: 120m . Gradient: 1 deg (Flat)
Skills: - Occasional rivers (3/6)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

Follow the riverbed / old 4WD track downriver to Kennedy Memorial Hut which sits on the western bank against a patch of beech forest. Great sunny spot with views up the valley. This section of riverbed was dry when I visited but could clearly flood - it's a large river flat. 1.5-2.5hrs

Created by: Madpom on 2016-01-03. Experienced: 2007-04-09

From Kennedy Memorial Hut to Grough Hut via riverbed track
Distance: 6.9 km (2.5 DOC hours) - Unmaintained track - Easy-moderate terrain
Altitude: 669m to 746m. Gain: 31m. Loss: 77m . Gradient: 1 deg (Flat)
Skills: - Streams (2/6)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

Follow the riverbed / old 4WD track down the Dobson valley floor from Kennedy Hut. Grough Hut (a 2 bunk bivvy) is just visible from the river, sitting in beech at the top of an alluvial fan on the true right, as shown on topomaps. This section of the Dobson was low when I walked it, but can clearly flood. It can be walked entirely on the true right. 1.5-2.5hrs

Last updated by: Madpom at 2016-01-31 01:56:03. Experienced: 2007-04-09

From Grough Hut to Huxley Lodge roadend via riverbed / track
Distance: 22.0 km (10.0 DOC hours) - Unmarked route, clear - Easy-moderate terrain
Altitude: 534m to 701m. Gain: 23m. Loss: 172m . Gradient: 1 deg (Flat)
Skills: - Occasional rivers (3/6)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

Follow the riverbed downriver from Grough Hut. A 4WD track traverses the eastern valleyside but is on private land and permission may be required from Glen Lyon station to use it. The two huts (Station Hut and Le Crens Hut) are both private and permission is required from Glen Lyon to use them.

At the confluence, cross the Hopkins River to reach Huxley Lodge at the 2WD roadend.

Both rivers are broad and shallow and easily crossed in normal flows, but can flood. It is possible to travel up to Red Hut on the true right of the Dobson / true left of the Hopkins if the rivers are up.


Created by: Madpom on 2016-01-03. Experienced: 2007-04-09

Distance: 4.3 km (1.0 DOC hours) - Road - Easy terrain
Altitude: 551m to 595m. Gain: 51m. Loss: 11m . Gradient: 1 deg (Gentle)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

An unexciting 4.5km road walk connects the Hopkins roadend to the Temple roadend. Head down the valley, and take the signposted turnoff to the Temple just befoire the bridge over Temple Stream.

Created by: Madpom on 2014-11-16. Experienced: 2007-04-01

Distance: 7.2 km (3.0 DOC hours) - Tramping track - Easy terrain
Altitude: 596m to 831m. Gain: 294m. Loss: 67m . Gradient: 3 deg (Gentle)
Skills: - Occasional rivers (3/6)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

A good tramping track once ran up the south Temple to the hut, but the lower section of this has been obliterated by shingle washouts on the valley floor. However, this is still an easy walk.

Follow the marked track upriver, crossing the North Temple after 300m. There is no bridge (maps are outdated), and this can flood after heavy rain. From the western bank, puck up warratah-marked track across shuingle and grassy flats heading upstream on the northern bank of the South Temple. 3km upstream a sidecreek/slip reveals itself as the source of all the shingle, and beyond the valley is more pleasant - grassy terraces and a river confined to its bed. The track improves and is well marked and cut, sidling low on the northern valleyside as far as the hut.

Again, the swingbridge shown on maps at the hut is long since destroyed, and another river crossing is required at the forks to cross to the hut. Again, this is generally knee deep, but can be impassable after a night (or day) of rain. The hut is clearly visible of grassy terraces upstream of the forks on the southern bank of the north fork.

Created by: Madpom on 2014-11-16. Experienced: 2011-04-23

From South Temple Hut to Mt Maitland tarns via valley route
Distance: 4.6 km (3.0 DOC hours) - Unmarked route, clear - Easy-moderate terrain
Altitude: 817m to 1848m. Gain: 1049m. Loss: 39m . Gradient: 14 deg (Moderate)
Skills: Alpine weather (2/7) - Streams (2/6)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

From the hut, head up the south fork of the Temple on the true left. A crossing to the true right is required downstream of the fork with the centre branch of the creek - generally the only tricky crossing in high flows.

Continue upriver through mature beech forest on the true tight of the creek, on the mossy valley floor, up old, dry river channels. The route is reasonable well traveled, but marked only by almost disintegrated blue feratox bags. Cross again to the TL and climb, a little before the next gorged section where a waterfall cascades from the right-hand bank. A large permolat X on a tree on the true left marks the start of the sidle route. Climb the spur and then look for a well-worn but unmarked route sidling upriver some 100m above the creek. If you can't find it, just guess and sidle - this altitude will keep you above the gorge. Occasional permolat markers may be found on the sidle track, but just keep your altitude constant as the river rises to meet you.

From here the valley is easy - travel through mossy beech forest on the valley floor, crossing the now-small stream as required. 800m beyond the sidle route you emerge into tussock. Swing south with the main valley, climbing steeply up the first of two steps. The second step 1km beyond is steeper and rockier. Routes are possible on either side of the creek - scree on the true left, rocky river channel on the true right.

Clambering over the lip of the face you emerge onto a moraine wall pt1864, containing the first of several small tarns at the head of the valley. Rocky campspots are present. A beautiful spot on a nice day, but grey and bleak in a cold southerly.

Created by: Madpom on 2014-11-17. Experienced: 2011-04-24

From Mt Maitland tarns to Shamrock Hut via South Watson Stream
Distance: 11.2 km (6.0 DOC hours) - Unmarked route, clear - Moderate terrain
Altitude: 793m to 1941m. Gain: 174m. Loss: 1191m . Gradient: 7 deg (Gentle)
Skills: Alpine weather (2/7) - Streams (2/6)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

A physically and technically easy alpine pass on moraine and tussock.

From the tarms at the head of the Sth Temple (due east of Mt Maitland), head WSW over the obvious pass. This is a gentle climb on semi-stable rock-scree - just loose enough to half roll when you stand on it.

The descent into the Watson is similar. A fairly gentle descent but on semi-stable rock-scree - not loose enough to run/surf down, but too loose to trust your footing on. After 2km tussock replaces scree and going improves. The valley gorges out as it swings west and drops to the forks in the Watson. Sidle above the gorge on the true left and descend good tussock faces to to main Watson valley. An easy walk down tussock flats follows to the bushedge where good, well used campspots exist on the true left.

Cross to the true right and sidle the valleyside at roughly the height you entered the beech at on good terraces as shown on the map. Pass through a series of clearings and head to pt1003 where the bush ends. An easy descent on a face of short tussock takes you to the Ahururi valley floor. Cross the river to the old farm track on the western side. The river is fairly small here and an easy crossing in normal flows, but it is in a large bed so can clearly flood.

Shamrock Hut is 1.5km south down the old farm track - 150m west of the track on the bushedge.

Created by: Madpom on 2016-01-05. Experienced: 2007-04-12

From Shamrock Hut to Canyon creek ford via track part 2
Distance: 0.0 km (1.0 DOC hours) - Road - Easy terrain
Altitude: 783m to 821m. Gain: 12m. Loss: 50m . Gradient: 777 deg (Flat)
Skills: - Streams (2/6)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

From Shamrock Hut the old farm track continues down the valley for 4km to Canyon Creek, which must be forded - can flood after heavy rain. The end of the public road is reached soon after.

Last updated by: Madpom at 2016-01-05 02:51:02. Experienced: 2006-04-01

From Canyon creek ford to Scrubby Hut (Hunter) via Little Canyon Col
Distance: 10.5 km (8.0 DOC hours) - Unmarked route, hard - Hard terrain
Altitude: 393m to 1831m. Gain: 1069m. Loss: 1446m . Gradient: 14 deg (Steep)
Skills: Occasional scrambles (3/7) - Occasional rivers (3/6)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

This route is recommended by DOC as a 'non-alpine route' - but in honesty I found it harder than other local routes including V-notch and the Temple-Sth Huxley route due to travel on loose scree above bluffs.

Follow the track up the Canyon Creek to the forks, and leave it there (it heads up the northern Canyon Creek). Follow the river or sidle the north face west up Little Canyon Creek - reasonable going in good beech forest. After 1.5km the beech ends and scree begins. The valley climbs gently to what appears to be an unsurmountable face at the head. As you get close it begins to look more climbable, but it is still steep and bluffy.

Other routes may exists, but from the end of the gently climbing valley flats, I climbed the scree fan on the left to the base fo bluffs, and then spent 20 mins trying various combinations of scree chutes before I found one that lead clean through the bluffs to scree faces above. This section was uncomfortable as you spend much time on scree slopes with bluffs close below you.

Once through the bluffs a series of short climbs take you past a couple of false summits to the col. This section held snow as late as April when I visited, but is gently sloping.

The west side starts as an easy descent on good scree, but after a brief section on tussock you hit good Otago subalpine scrub, bracken and lawyer. It is a hard, unpleasant scrub-bash to the valley floor below.

The Hunter RIver was knee deep when I crossed in normal flows with rain a few days previous. A 4WD track exists on the western bank, and the station Scrubby Hut is 1km further up the valley.

Created by: Madpom on 2016-01-05. Experienced: 2007-04-15

From Scrubby Hut (Hunter) to Makarora Hut via Scrubby Flat
Distance: 10.8 km (9.0 DOC hours) - Unmarked route, clear - Easy-moderate terrain
Altitude: 397m to 1525m. Gain: 1128m. Loss: 830m . Gradient: 11 deg (Moderate)
Skills: Alpine weather (2/7) - Streams (2/6)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

Scrubby Flat Creek is 1km up the valley from Scrubby Hut. An tramping track has been cut and marked up the northern valleyside (2007) sidling above the gorge and ending at the bushedge. Sadly it is not cut or recently marked above the bushedge. At the bushedge, climb the rocky gully and sidle to the tongue of beech upriver. An old NZFS track marked with red permolat can be found here, sidling through the beech on obvious terraces. Drop to the river flats as soon as scrub below clears to grassy flats. Reasonable camping spots exist at these first flats.

Good travel on open flats remains to the end of flats at the last major fork, SE of the col. The stream is small by this point and should not pose a problem except in extreme conditions.

Climb obvious, easy tussock spurs leading directly to the col, avoiding gorged sections of creek.

From the col, descend the vague spur to the WNW, keeping between the two creeks which bracket the pass. Easy travel on tussock to the bushedge, then good deer trails through open beech lead to the valley floor. The trick is to remain on the spur, as many deer trails drop to the creek son either side.

Makarora Hut is 1.5km downriver on the southern bank. No crossings are required, but crossing to fflats opposite makes for an easier trip.

Created by: Madpom on 2016-01-05. Experienced: 2007-04-16

From Makarora Hut to Davis Flat Car Park via Makarora track
Distance: 9.1 km (5.0 DOC hours) - Tramping track - Moderate terrain
Altitude: 375m to 697m. Gain: 157m. Loss: 479m . Gradient: 4 deg (Gentle)
Skills: - Occasional rivers (3/6)
GPX info source: Drawn on map

From the Makarora hut follow grass flats down river on the true left of the Makarora. Look for markers at the bush edge at the foot of the flats and follow the track down stream. The track drops to river level near the first large side creek shown on the map where there is extensive erosion and slow progress on river rocks. Travel might be impossible here after heavy rain. Once clear of the flood debris good travel is had down through bush. A glimpse of the impressive lower gorge is offered before the track swings around the mountain side and drops down to the main river opposite the Haast road. A track junction has a side track heading down past the Stewart Falls. Follow the west track to the Makarora river and ford here (impassible after heavy rain) to reach the car park.

Created by: Yarmoss on 2015-07-09. Experienced: 2013-02-14

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