Trip6 East Arthurs Pass


13/10/05 -19/10/05



  • A double divide crossing, some nice climbing
  • 5 rivers and a great variety of country
  • good weather
  • discovering `lesser developed` parks



Start at Andrews Shelter

Andrews Biv

Poulter Hut

Townsend Hut

Taramakau camp

Goat Pass Hut x 2



Trip log:

Day 1       9km         +400m

Day 2      18km      +350m

Day 3      16km    +1600m

Day 4      15km    +100m

Day 5       20km      +1220m

Day 6       12km         +1380m

Day 7         32km      +680m

walked= 122km   +5820m=total climb



To get to the start of this trip you have to cross the Waimak using the Whites bridge.


From the Andrews shelter you head inland, and up an excellent track (as it turns out one of the only real tracks in the park


After a night in a run down 2 bunk biv I continued up toward the Andrews/Casey saddle, a minor   rise out of the bush. Still a bit of the southerly hanging around.


Having left bright and early as I`m wont to do these days if I`ve distance to cover or snow to traverse I drop down into the Poulter River to the Casey hut for breakfast. After soaking some pleasant sun for a change, then continue up the reasonably well traveled Poulter valley.


This is the Poulter a bit higher up, and it has to be crossed here which is easy enough.


DOC in its wisdom have just built a new Poulter hut, which is in a valley which already has 3 other huts nearby. It`s the new 10 bunk Morgan/Grassy style. Its nicely situated on a terrace overlooking the river, but well back to allow for changes in the rivers course. No solar orientation as per usual, but well insulated.


Next day it`s a short walk up to the famous Lake Minchin. Even though its in the far corner of the park its one of the more accessible and hence visited features. The lake is bush nestled and the image was taken quite early in the morning.


Heading up valley from the Lake, you have to climb around a gorge, on a short marked section of track. When I planned this route DoC forgot to mention the best way out of this catchment. The usual route is a nightmare of a bush/river bash down the Townsend creek. However I learnt my lesson and bought a copy of Brabyns Route guide for this area and he describes the Townsend high route, which thankfully is the one I use as below.


This is a typical `dog box` biv. There a quite a few of them in the park. Sadly DoC is not maintaining them, and in fact is removing many of them. This one, Minchin Biv, like Andrews (`Halejulah`) Biv is leaking and the structural timbers are mouldy and rotting. Im not quick to criticize DoC, but in this case, it definitely merits a `shame on you`. Later I might tell you about my Dr Zeus concept. Anyhow Minchin Biv is a lovely little spot.


This is near the head of the Minchin stream, and the pass over into Townsend is the obvious dip to the left. From the pass I head up the tussock and bluff covered slopes to its left, climbing to about 1400m.


That`s the view back down the Minchin.


Then it`s a case of sidling north into and around this, um, `pleasant` basin, according to the guide. The route out is up the little saddle at top right. From there you climb again , this time to 1600m. This is all an unmarked, unpoled route. The weather is just holding and no more.


At the top of the ridge (which had it have been a nicer day I would have climbing to its top ie. My Koeti) I hit the cloud level and also the snow line. From there you drop straight down a `rib` ( im expanding my mountain vocabulary), then sidle west.


As you sidle, mostly on broken rock piles, and some tussock, you get the odd glimpse of the Taramakau River that is some distance below. The sidle is reasonably long a few kms or so.


Ooh, theres a good glimpse!


Then you drop down tussolk slopes, and the odd bluff, to the charmingly situated Townsend Hut (actually nowhere near the creek of the same name, but I guess the guy, if it was a guy, got around). Huts at lower right. 4 bunks, no stove, and an, um, interesting bright green interior colour scheme. I could`ve stayed here a say or two , but alas the weather is picking up and theres some distance to cover. The one night I did stay, there were Kiwis calling just outside, they were very close.   It`s a special place, situated up high above the river.


That`s the view from near the hut. The Taramakau (most trampers call it tarraMAcow, but id bet its closer to TARamarkoe) is one of big west coast rivers famed for its greenstone. And while I did spend a good deal of time paddling in it, I didn`t find any except one fist sized piece I sent to my son.


You can tell it`s the west coast, by the density of the bush as we plummet down the track losing height at a dramatic rate. Here there is no beech forest, its all podocarp.


And its dense, lots of undergrowth--I am thankful for the track. Theres some really cool looking transition vegetation, including one tree I call a pineapple tree.


Watch out for the odd ongo onga or bush nettle.


This is the view back up to where the hut is.


I had high hopes for the Taramakau but it`s a bit of a cattle trodden Gorse invested mess really, especially in its lower reaches. It has some sort of crown grazing lease.


After crossing the Otira, and wandering up the train-track (to avoid walking on the highway) to the next leg of the trip, I no sooner got off the track when one of these great coal trains comes rattling by. Gee I thought trains didn`t exist anymore. Guess I was wrong. No more train tracks for this chap then.


There`s a great steel pedestrian bridge across the river to recross back onto the Deception Valley side. This is where the Coast to Coast mountain-man, um, person type race is held. That`s the Deception in the background. It certainly doesn`t give much of a hint of it`s vigour from here.


What you have to know is that Arthur`s Pass doesn`t do signs, like it doesn`t do tracks or hut maintenance. So here`s a rare one, albeit covered in gorse, of old Forest service ilk. Now back to this Dr Zeus thing. Basically I, as a North Islander, reckon that, Arthur`s Pass National Park subscribes to and uses a document called the Dr Zeus guide to interpretation of DOC service standards. Routes that are marked on the map as a track, are probably routes. Marked routes shown on the map are probably going to turn out as unmarked routes. And when a route isn`t shown on a map, it`s quite likely that you`ll find bizarre sections that have markers, I mean they will suddenly and inexplicably start, and just the same stop again.   I guess they see it as some sort of minimalist thing, but I reckon that`s just an excuse.   Anyway it keeps you on your toes.


The Deception for all that it is one of the most trodden parts of the park, is basically one long steep rock hop, with the odd bush bash. Its demanding, and frankly I`m surprised thousands of people walk, crawl and run this route every year. This is a more open section lower down.


Here`s a native fushia flower that seemed to pop out of a light brown papery trunk with hardly any leaves.


Up further the bush comes right down to the river and makes route finding harder. You tend to get wet.


And this is the last section, when you emerge above the bushline. The gap through to the right is the tiny little creek that serves as a track up to Goat Pass. Just walk in the creek--you aint got no choice.


I had no sooner arrived at the pass when choppers turned up to drop pelletted 1080 on the entire deception valley. They call it possum control, most people call it madness. If I had been a few hours later I would have got to taste the stuff. There`s a nice thought for you.


That`s Goat Pass hut, situated at about 1000m, again no heating. Make sure you take a good supply of newspaper to dry your boots out, especially if you plan as I did to do some climbing the next day.   Goat pass is a big hut and a popular destination.


That`s Goat pass itself (the hut is just a few meters down a bank) viewed from above as you climb up to Lake Mavis.


That`s lake Mavis, frozen over. There is a route over into the Edwards valley which is up the obvious ridge. I climb to the ridge edge to get a view down the otherside.


That`s looking back down the ridge to the Lake. Snow conditions are soft still, but not overly so. You can see my prints.


And that`s whats on the other side. They call it falling mountain, and it`s a huge chuck of hillside that fell off during the Murchison earthquake and made a mess of the valley.


After that I was feeling adventurous, and my crampons were starting to get rusty from lack of use. So I kept climbing up towards Mt Oates. In places you have to drop off the ridge and sidle around various pinnacles.


Basically it`s a really nice   day out.


That`s me at the summit, about 2050m.


The view south down the Mingha valley.


The route down--straight down an avalanche shute or two to the lake, boot skiing. Yahoo.


After another night at Goat Pass, its time to move on down the Mingha River. There;s a pretty good trail down there, fit for school groups and what not. Its not really maintained as such, just a trail of adventure sporters footsteps.


Just like a deer trail really ;-) Opens out lower down.


I finally got a jump on some Canada geese. They are all over the place in this park (along with Paradise ducks), but mostly quite shy, and difficult to photograph.


This is a small fish I found in a puddle. About 50mm long.


To complete my 7 day circuit I followed various 4WD tracks, next to the railway line, wandering along the stunning Waimak River environment.


Eventually you have to cross the Waimak and luckily the railway bridge has a footway and `passing bay`. While this particular `Peter route` obviated a 25km highway walk, Im fairly clear neither DoC nor Toll Rail will endorse this particular route, so you didn`t hear it from me.


There`s the rail bridge, its probably about 150m long. Here you see again how low the river is. I supposed I could have forded it if necessary--maybe thigh deep.


And this is the last gravel road section taking you back to the shelter and car. Its dusk, by now and there`s some groovy light about. As always for each photo you see here I often have 10 or more others.


Its always a relief to see the car, and to think that its been sitting there for a whole week unattended, and full of all my (relatively worthless) travel treasures.   It`s a nice spot to camp so I do. Pancakes and maple syrup and tinned apricots for breakfast!


That`s a fantastic circuit and a very good way to experience Arthurs Pass National Park. DoC will tell you that circuits are not really feasible in the park, but to the contrary if you are fit and adventurous, this walk gives new meaning to the term great walks.