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Pubblicato da Peter McKellar « »

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Pubblicato da Peter McKellar « »

« »
Stato: Nuova Zelanda Inizio: Routeburn Shelter MinEle: 316 m
Mt Aspiring National Park
Fine: Routeburn Shelter MaxEle: 1598 m
Waypoints: 10 Dislivello salita: 3435 m
46.8 km
Downloads: 124 Dislivello discesa: 3405 m
Data report:
May 26, 2019
Pubblicato: Jun 1, 2005 Hits: 6198
  Votazione Media



This is a less known route into remote country and should not be confused with the popular Routeburn Track. Most of it is untracked and requires a very high standard of fitness. There are no huts and tents are required. Routefinding between Park Pass and North Col can be difficult in poor weather conditions so hopefully this track will assist. This route can be done in three days but four or five is recommended as the weather gets very bad, rivers flood and can delay travel.

A good weather forecast after coming out from a wet Rees-Dart circuit meant that Sue Williams, Winston Fleming and myself decided to make a quick job of washing clothes and bodies and restocking food supplies in Glenorchy as the hills beckoned once again. Instead of two nights and a whole day at the Glenorchy backpackers we cut this down to one night and caught the 1:30pm shuttle to the Routeburn road end.

Our packs once again loaded with food for five nights, tents and ice axes we headed past the hordes on the Routeburn Track until we located the turn off to the Sugarloaf Pass. This junction is intentionally unmarked so as not to confuse tourists. As it was we had to stop one person from trying to follow us.

The plod began up the hill, fuelled at this stage by not one, but two Glenorchy pies. As the weather was fine, the intention was to camp on top of the Sugarloaf Pass that night. Despite being quite swampy above bush line, there were plenty of places to camp. The one we chose was on a little ridge just before the saddle with fantastic views down the Dart to Glenorchy and Lake Wakatipu. It was my turn to cook dinner that night while Sue and Winston explored an area of tarns to the east of the saddle. That night I lay in bed, counting the headlights of cars coming up the Glenorchy road, without having to lift my head from the pillow.

We packed quickly on day 2, finishing the last of the fresh bread by toasting it on the stove.

Crossing the Sugarloaf led us into the Rockburn Valley proper and a steep decent through a number of windfalls before we reached the banks of the river. The morning was perfect as we tramped up the rough track admiring the bird life. My previous visits to the Rockburn Valley had always featured heavy rain so it was nice to amble and enjoy life. We had plenty of time to do this trip so we were not under any pressure.

We had lunch on a small flat on the way before going through some rougher country and then crossing the swing bridge just before the expansive Theatre Flats. We didn't linger, deciding to make the Upper Flats for the night so climbed the 150m, bypassing a small gorge. At the top of this is an area of stunted bush and rocks that has an attractive rock garden like appearance. This is worth a side visit as you get good views of the upper valley and Park Pass at its head.

That night we camped on the edge of the upper flats and Winston lit us a nice camp fire. The evening light provided a nice backdrop as we pottered around the camp site, some washing in the river or taking photos.

I was a bit anxious on day 3 because one of the features of this trip is an awkward snow grass slope between Park Pass and Lake Nerine, which we were heading to. The huge rock slab bluffs that surrounded us added to this unease.

We headed off, across the flats, past some bush to some more flats and then up past one last short gorge before we broke out into the upper valley of the Rockburn. It is now a matter of simply wandering up the streams, gaining height easily until you reach the grassy knolls and a large tarn on Park Pass. The views on the other side extended to the Darren Range across the Hollyford to the west. The weather was perfect. Not a single cloud had hindered our trip so far.

A quick break and we ambled along, heading south, gently climbing along the main divide until we got to a point where there is a cairn on the ridge and the route drops into a little basin on the Rockburn side of the ridge.

We had lunch in this basin with the snow grass slopes that so worried me in full view ahead of us. However it didn't look as bad as I had expected. I had crossed this slope a couple of times before over the last 30 years, and while one needs to be careful because of bluffs below, in my opinion it wouldn't really be dangerous unless under snow or particularly wet conditions. The worst thing that could realistically happen to a normal tramping party would be for someone to put their pack down and have it roll to the bottom of the valley. With this in mind we resolved to keep packs on our backs for the duration.

In fact the slope was better than I had expected. The loose rock that was one of my worries didn't eventuate, which leads me to think that it has consolidated and the grass and scrub on it has grown since I was last there. However the going is unpleasant made worse by the need to climb 200m as well as traverse. Then at last I crossed a low ridge and was greeted by a small terrace, which would give easier going for the rest of the way.

The top of this traverse leads out to the first of several quite reasonably sized tarns or small lakes. This one is particularly attractive because it has a couple of rocky islands and the water is so clear that you can see the bottom, several metres down. We spent half an hour or so enjoying this place before moving on, relieved by the knowledge that the hard bit was over... or was it?

We traversed to the left of the lake which gave us the opportunity to walk on the crest of the bluffs leading back down to the Rockburn. The views were magnificent and led me to comment that "If this wasn't Paradise, then you sure could see it from here". In fact the green fields of Paradise were visible at the head of Lake Wakatipu.

A low saddle in the ridge separates this lake from the basin containing Lake Nerine and we clambered up a gully to this easily. However the long easy snow slopes leading to Lake Nerine that I remembered from my last trip were not there. Instead a convex slope of rocky slabs without a scrap of snow on them separated us from the lake.

I headed down gingerly, trusting the friction of my boots soon feeling that the slopes were negotiable. However it became apparent that a better route was to the left, down a little gully which had some loose scree at the bottom. I signalled to the others to go left and headed down. Soon I was at the edge of another lakelet which lies alongside Lake Nerine. I was then able to direct Sue and Winston. Sue opted to come down without her pack and Winston kindly did a second trip to retrieve it.

We wandered around the shore of Lake Nerine and soon agreed on a place to camp the night. It was a pre used spot with a rock wall for shelter and some good slabs of rock around to use as tables. Surrounding us were flowering bunches of Ranunculus buchanani which, in March, had only just emerging from the melting snow. These were busy making the best of their short season before they would once again be buried by the winter snows once again.

My GPS told me that we were only 1500m horizontally from where we had camped the previous night. But we were 1000m higher as well. Our route to get here was like a big switchback.

After dinner we wandered around on the glacier polished slabs separating Lake Nerine from the rest of the valley, enjoying the views of Theatre Flats far below. The rock shelter was quite unnecessary that night as we slept under a perfect cloudless, starry sky, without a breath of wind.

Then, on day 4, we were away again, trying to reassure Sue that there were no further difficulties on this trip. A small route finding mistake meant that Sue's concerns were justified for a while and my resolving to keep my mouth shut from now on.

The views from the main divide behind Lake Nerine were fantastic, dominated by the Darren Mountains and Mt Madeline and Tutuko beyond a completely cloud filled Hollyford Valley.

We then traversed above the Hidden Falls Valley to North Col, which leads us back into the North Branch of the Routeburn Valley. The trick here is to maintain height as the col is almost exactly the same height as the ridge behind Lake Nerine; however a drop of about 50-100m is probably advisable to avoid some steep country.

Once in North Col we stopped for lunch in a sheltered sunny place just before we had to go down the snow. I had suggested we brought ice axes for just this place. The snow is not steep but is between two steep bluffs and it cannot be avoided. It is possible that the run out isn't good and this proved to be the case, but only for about 50m.

We were soon across the snow and packing ice axes away again and scrambling down the stream to the valley below, in some places passing very attractive alpine flower gardens.

In the valley floor we were fascinated by an area that had obviously been devastated by a massive avalanche in the winter. Stones were shattered and turf turned over in places. But the overall impression was of recovery as alpine plants grew out of the mess. A large piece of avalanche snow was especially interesting where the stream had formed a large tunnel underneath it.

We rapidly lost height as we went down stream and the sun got hotter. I was getting quite confident and enjoying the boulder hop right up until suddenly I fell with a bang onto a rock, right onto my backside. The pain was sickening and I had to stop for a minute or two to regain my composure. But I was soon to my feet, much to the others relief. I came along at the back after that. Confidence curtailed and feeling a bit weak on my right side.

We came across a track that sidles through scrub on the true left around a small gorge and this led down to some flats. We crossed these, but as we were half way down the valley and I was feeling in need of rest, we stopped and made camp. It wasn't until I got my right boot off that I noticed that my ankle was quite swollen.

That night I had an uncomfortable night, not helped by an insomniac Kea up in the cliffs beside the valley. A nocturnal pit stop became alarming when I found my ankle had stiffened up and I couldn't put weight on it.

At breakfast I expressed some doubt about being able to walk the last couple of hours down to the Routeburn Flats but we had plenty of time so had to try. I felt quite uncertain on rough ground, especially in places where I couldn't see where to place my feet.

I started off earlier than the others, who helped by taking some of my gear. I strapped my boots on tight, took some anti-inflammatories and pain killers and with the help of two walking poles, made a start. The going was rough for the first little bit but I was soon down on another flat. That is where the pain killers kicked in and I was off like a rocket. We located a good track on the true right and followed this all the way out to the flats, meeting the first people we had seen on the whole trip, some German tourists doing a day side trip.

After two hours we were at Routeburn Flats Hut where I rested while Winston and Sue took a side trip to Harris Saddle and Conical Hill. Sue had never been on the Routeburn Track before so we had decided to use this extra day to show her the track. Meanwhile I sat at a picnic bench outside the hut with leg elevated watching a helicopter taking construction equipment and septic tank contents down the hill.

We camped our final night a little way up the North Branch, outside the 500m no camping zone around the Routeburn Track and then, day six, we made our way down the final two hours of benched track to the Routeburn road end, in good time to catch the 2pm bus back to Glenorchy and then on to Queenstown.

The ankle seemed better but this did not stop Rotorua Hospital putting a plaster back slab on it when I got home, which kept me on crutches for a week.

That night we showered, washed all our clothes and then went out for Steak and Beer at one of Queenstown's finest restaurants and enjoyed a comfortable night on a mattress and with a real pillow.

Thanks to Sue and Winston for coming, looking after me and for being such great company.

More photos here

More photos

Tracks & Routes

Nome Descrizione Distanza Dislivello salita Dislivello discesa  
Rockburn-Nth No Description 47 Km 3435 m 3405 m
Vedi altimetria

POIs (Points of Interest)

Picture Description Coordinates Elevation Icon

BRIDGE Lat: -44.643599 Lon: 168.245795 757 m
13-MAR-05 1:58:47PM

CAIRN Lat: -44.612077 Lon: 168.209710 1245 m
14-MAR-05 11:37:32AM

FLATS HUT Lat: -44.725376 Lon: 168.215432 699 m
16-MAR-05 12:39:10PM

FORGE FLAT Lat: -44.716620 Lon: 168.244027 668 m
17-MAR-05 10:58:59AM

Lake Nerine Lat: -44.633128 Lon: 168.205492 0 m

North Col Lat: -44.644842 Lon: 168.189225 0 m

Park Pass Lat: -44.601837 Lon: 168.214510 1180 m
1180 m

Routeburn Sh Lat: -44.718285 Lon: 168.275049 0 m

Sugarloaf Pa Lat: -44.690184 Lon: 168.271239 0 m

Theatre Flat Lat: -44.642919 Lon: 168.239262 0 m