Altitude: 270m to 1579m. Gain: 2338m. Loss: 2304m . Gradient: 4 deg (Moderate)
Skills: Occasional scrambles (3/7) - Prolonged rivers (4/6)
The classic Rabbit Pass trip. Described here as part of madpom's East Cape to West Cape traverse.
A classic Otago 'up the valley, over the pass, down the valley trip' with long walks up farmed and ex-farmed valley flats, beech sidles, a brief - challenging alpine pass, and then the whole thing in reverse.
Atypically the East Matukituki has no huts, so this is a tenting trip - in part.
Altitude: 270m to 370m. Gain: 208m. Loss: 175m . Gradient: 2 deg (Flat)
Skills: - Prolonged rivers (4/6)
The walking route into the Wilkin starts at Wilkin road, 4km south of Makarora Wilderness Lodge.
Follow Wilkin Road down to the Makarora and ford the river at the braided section here. The Makarora is a serious river - knee to thigh deep in normal flows it can be crossed by individuals and parties experienced in river crossing techniques. After any rain it will be impassable - as will the Young to the north and Wilkin to the south, making the jetboat your only option.
Once across, follow the farm track into the base of the Wilkin and pick up the poled route heading up valley. This is a private, farmed valley, so stick to the permitted track up river flats and occasionally low on the beech faces. The jetboat pickup spot is 1km below Kerin Forks hut, and in busy season will be notable for the crowds of people getting on / off boats. Kerin Forks Hut is 1km upriver on the opposite bank, and a crossing is required - knee to thigh deep in normal flows. Easily impassable after rain.
Altitude: 316m to 343m. Gain: 27m. Loss: 0m . Gradient: 1 deg (Flat)
Skills: - Prolonged rivers (4/6)
As the map here is quite different to the lay out of the river at Kerin Folks, the route shown is approximate only. See the attached Google Earth image.
There are 2 main crossing points at Kerin Folks:
-In the jet boat pool.... the large deep pool which is the limit that the jet boats go up the river. There is usually a gravel bar across the pool which is chest deep (about 1.4m) in summer but has almost no current. Obviously the gravel bar might move so the depth might be greater!
-Upstream of the rapids. Theres another pool tucked in under the bank on the true right of the river. The water here is about knee-waist deep but has a decent current to it. Obviously the danger here is being swept over and into the rapids between the upper pool and the jet boat pool.
The potential is also there to cross above the upper pool and sidle down the true right river bank, which is basically a bluff from opposite the Siberia/Wilkin confluence to the rapids. Lower down Kerin Forks flats is also an option. Dans Flat usually has a gravel braid. You can also flag down a jet boat and ask to be ferried across. This costs about $20 per head.
Once across the river, Kerin Forks Hut is on the top of the rise over looking the grassy flats on the true right of the river. An obvious trail leads through the grass to the hut.
Altitude: 320m to 613m. Gain: 382m. Loss: 117m . Gradient: 2 deg (Moderate)
Skills: - Occasional rivers (3/6)
From Kerin Forks Hut markers lead into the trees and head up valley on a good track. It's steady progress up to Jumboland Flats, but a number of the side streams crossed a long the way potentially become uncrossable after heavy rain. It's 2 hours to Jumboland where there is good camping on both sides of the river. The Wilkin is knee deep and crossable here under normal conditions but has a strong current. Carrying on up river the track climbs up above a gorge before dropping down to the extensive upper flats. The marked track sticks to the true right the whole way up and climbs very steeply up and over Peak 710 over a flood route. It is far easier under normal flows to cross to the true left and go up valley past Peak 710 before crossing back past the hill. The area around the small lakes between Peak 710 and the airstrip shown on this map is full of overgrown boulders (an ancient land slide) and is best avoided by either sticking to the river bank or hard against the northern bush edge. Once past Peak 710 its a short walk around the hill to Top Forks Hut.
Altitude: 609m to 1579m. Gain: 1124m. Loss: 970m . Gradient: 9 deg (Moderate)
Skills: Occasional scrambles (3/7) - Streams (2/6)
Note: A crossing of Rabbit Pass involves 2 dangerous climbs, one on the infamous Wilkin waterfall face, the other on the East Matukituki cliff. This route should only be attempted in good conditions. While people do make the crossing south to north, this involves a down-climb of the waterfall face, in my opinion a more daunting prospect then going up it.
From Top Forks Hut markers lead into the bush where a decent track heads up Snow Bridge Gorge. Once out of the trees the track sidles through scrub up the gorge, which in 2010 was fairly overgrown in places. It takes about 3 hours to reach the snow grass flats which stretch from Waterfall Flat. As you make your way up the flats the impressive view of the valley head gets better and better. Theres a small rock biv under an obvious boulder near the head of the valley, a few hundred metres from the start of the Waterfall Route.
The route up the face starts well to the right (north) of the actual waterfall and initially climbs up a grass spur. It then sidles right (north) through bluffs, standing in boot holes kicked into the bank while hanging onto snow grass, before reaching a steep rocky section which you apparently go straight up on. In 2010 this was wet weepy rock following a couple of wet days. A grassy gut to the left (south) of the rock provides an alternative route up. At the top of the gut its a long climbing sidle to the left (south) which takes you to the top of the face, some 130m higher then the actual waterfall. This last sidle is extremely exposed and a slip would be fatal. Once at the top the views out over Waterfall Flat are fair reward.
Drop down scree and rock to the infant Wilkin South branch and follow it southwards. Rock soon gives way to grass and alpine meadows. Pearson Saddle is an easy side trip from the valley floor and makes a great spot for a late lunch. Carrying on through Rabbit Pass the massive East Matukituki cliff drops away on your right as snow poles come into sight. Follow the poles eastwards along the top of the cliff as far as the 1600m contour where a final pole mounted in a cairn marks the start of the descent into the Matukituki. Descend down a steep zig zag though loose scree to reach the top of the cliff. In 2010 a marker lay about 30m below at the foot of a vertical gut. A narrow ledge, covered in loose, crumbly schist rock drops westwards down the bluff at a steep angle. Descend very carefully down the ledge, all the way to the bottom. Going is slow, and frequented with showers of loose rock down the ledge (and onto any party members below you). Like the Wilkin Waterfall face, I wouldn't even dream of attempting this in anything other then ideal conditions. Allow an hour to get down with a party of 2 people, much longer with larger parties simply due to falling rock hazard.
Once down the cliff head westwards down steep scree slopes following snow poles, and then southwards on snow grass until you eventually hit the stream coming down from Rabbit Pass. Best travel is in rock hopping in the stream to avoid scrub and flood damaged terrain. Flat terrain is finally reached down at about 800m. Follow the Matukituki down through grassy flats, crossing as required for the best travel. There's camping all down the length of the valley as far as Ruth Flat. To locate the upper rock biv leave the Matukituki when you reach the stream coming down from between Aspinall Peak and Peak 1828 and look for an overhanging cliff on the true right side of the stream a few dozen metres up from the Matukituki, well hidden by bushes. If you want to push on to Ruth Flat its further hour's easy walk.
Altitude: 363m to 1054m. Gain: 572m. Loss: 980m . Gradient: 6 deg (Moderate)
Skills: Alpine weather (2/7) - Streams (2/6)
From the biv cross head back down to the East Matukituki river and follow it down the flats, crossing as required for the best travel, to Ruth Flats as marked on map CA11, about 1 hour from the biv. At the bottom of the flats markers lead into the bush and begins to climb up the hill above the Bledisloe Gorge. The first large stream you encounter coming down from between Peak 1866 and Point 1534 is an impressive rock chocked flood channel which you have to scramble down into and out of. Probably impassible after rain. After passing above some bluffs the track clears the bush and traverses open terrain which stretches down from the Albert Burn Saddle about, about 3 hours from Ruth Flat. The track drops steeply down the hill side, reentering the bush and heads all the way down the Matukituki. In late 2013 there was a large scrub fire around here. I'm not sure if its had an effect on the track or not. Cross the 3 wire bridge over the Matukituki and then cross the flood plain of Junction Flat (good camping spots). A second 3 wire crosses the Kitchener River. The track carries on down river until finally you reach a small clearing with good camping not far up from the Glacier Burn, about 8 hours from Ruth Flat. The car park at Cameron Flat is only about 1.5 hours away if you want to walk straight out.
Altitude: 323m to 375m. Gain: 25m. Loss: 62m . Gradient: 1 deg (Flat)
Skills: - Occasional rivers (3/6)
Follow the track to the Glacier Burn which is easily forded, or use the 3 Wire. Markers lead across the flarmland which makes up the lower East Matukituki. I cant remember the exact route but it sticks to fence lines and passes through gates. Please leave all farm gates as you find them. The markers lead onto the main farm road which is followed down to the West Matukituki River. Ford the river (impassible after rain) and cross flood plains to the car park at Cameron Flat. If hitch hiking, your best chance of catching a ride to Wanaka is from midday onwards once everyone starts returning form the popular Rob Roy Glacier walk.