Altitude: 374m to 1616m. Gain: 4203m. Loss: 4085m . Gradient: 7 deg (Moderate-hard)
Skills: Prolonged scrambles (4/7) - Prolonged rivers (4/5)
The classic Five Passes (in reverse) with the addition of Lake Nerine and an exit down the north branch of the Routeburn.
Starting from the Lake Sylvan carpark, the tramp heads north past the lake and up the Dart River to the Beansburn. River valley travel up the Beansburn finally becomes a steep snowgrass climb to Fohn Pass and alpine tarns framed by Sunset, Corinna and Brenda Peaks (a great side trip). Descending to the Olivine Ledge, the route turns south and climbs again to Fiery Col - aptly named for the ultramafic rock of the area.
Another descent to Cow Saddle and down again along Hidden Falls Creek to a point below Park Pass. A relentless 600m climb to the Pass brings you to a choice: continue to Lake Nerine or choose the traditional Five Passes tramp and head down the Rockburn. The pass also gives access to a glacier, 400m above.
To Lake Nerine, the route is only suitable in good weather - wet, snow or poor visibility make this section very dangerous. It's a sidle over very steep snowgrass, scree and rock that leads to the 1550m tarn and a great skyline.
Another sidle (high or low routes) across grasses, scree and rock to reach North Col and then the final descent along the North Routeburn and a brief section of wide benched track to the Routerburn Shelter. If necessary, it's approx 2km along the road to return to the Lake Sylvan carpark.