SH73 to Edwards Hut
Time: 4-5 hr
Five kilometres south of Arthur’s Pass village cross the Bealey River just above its confluence with the Mingha River. If the river is high and not easy to cross here, you will have problems further on, so save the trip for another day. The track begins at the bush-edge downstream of the Edwards-Mingha confluence.
Look for the orange markers and sign on the river flat which mark the start of a 20-minute track to bypass the lower Edwards gorge (negotiable if the river is low).
When the track emerges on to the riverbed, travel upstream on the true left, climbing the bank once or twice when neccessary. Cross the East Branch of the Edwards (difficult when high) above where it joins the main river and pick up the marked track 100 metres up the East Branch on the opposite bank. There are a few steep sections - one with a hand chain to help - and the odd glimpse of waterfalls in Edwards River.
The track leads to a large upland valley, emerging finally among red tussocks on teh upper river flats (take care as it is easy to lose the way in the maze of tussocks.) The track leads back into the forest for a short section before emerging on the river flats with a clear view to Edwards Hut (14 bunks). Total time from the road is 4-5 hours, the junction with the East Branch being a little under halfway.
The hut has a radio, which is monitored by Arthur's Pass Visitor Centre during office hours. Some groups have had difficulty reaching the centre on this radio so please read the instructions carefully. There is a log burner in the hut for heating, but you will need your own cooker and utensils.
Edwards Hut to Hawdon Hut
Time: 6 - 9 hr
Edwards Hut to Taruahuna Pass
Time: 2 hr
From Edwards Hut continue upstream along the true left bank over tussock flats or in the riverbed to the summit of Taruahuna Pass. Travel is slow, but on easy gradients and sometimes helped by well-trodden paths. The pass itself is a huge pile of mountain debris, the result of a landslide from Falling Mountain triggered by a large earthquake in 1929.
Note: this area is subject to avalanche activity during the winter. During heavy snow conditions we advise visitors not to travel this route unless sufficiently equipped and experienced to assess the conditions and choose a safe path through avalanche terrain.
Taruahuna Pass to Walker Pass
Time: 2 - 4 hr
From the rocky debris of Taruahuna Pass the route turns abruptly right and goes extremely steeply up to Tarn Col.
Climb across the landslide debris on Taruahuna Pass towards the foot of the grassy saddle on the right (east). This is Tarn Col and the best route up is to climb up beside the creek that drops down from the lowest point on the col. Be careful on the steep, slippery snowgrass. When Tarn Col is covered in snow the route is difficult and an ice-axe and crampons may be needed. If the creek bed is icy, climb to the rocky point on the ridge to the right (i.e. the true left of the creek) and then to the col. Time for the climb - about 45 minutes. Poor visibility will complicate route finding and if you have been climbing for more than 45 minutes it is likely you have chosen the wrong place and are climbing Fallen Mountain instead.
Groups travelling in the opposite direction can descend on the steep scree at the southern (Edwards) flank of the col.
Go around the tarn and drop immediately into the bed of the creek draining the tarn. Avoid the temptation to stay on the flat tussock-land on the true left as you will end up in bluffs.
Travel down the creek until it joins the larger East Branch of the Otehake (the first main stream coming down from the right) and then turn south. It is easy to go the wrong way from here so check your map and compass bearing. Make sure you are going upstream and south. Be careful crossing this stream and others, on your way to Hawdon Hut as the tracks as the tracks are extremely slippery.
Travel up the east branch of the Otehake riverbed for about 20 minutes. Climb through scrub to the low saddle on the left (true right). This is Walker Pass. A foot-worn track through the scrub begins at a cairn in the riverbed, 100 metres below a low cliff where the river swings south-west towards Amber Col.
Walker Pass to Hawdon Hut
Time: 2 - 3 hr
Pick up the creek draining the tarn on the pass and follow down the creek through boulders and scrub. A helpful track zigzags the creek. Marker poles starting in the creek show where to leave the stream towards the bush track. The poles lead you up past a rocky knoll. From here the track descends through the bush past Twin Falls to the creek. Once at the river it is only five minutes to the Hawdon Hut (20 bunks, wood stove for heating and radio link to Arthur's Pass Visitor Centre.
For those that have visited before, the original Hawdon Hut burnt down in 2005. The replacement hut, built in 2007 is on the flats above Discovery Stream, about 15 minutes upstream from the original location.
Hawdon Hut site to Hawdon Shelter
Time: 3 hr
Follow the track on the true right of Hawdon River until just above the point where the East Hawdon Stream joins the main Hawdon River. If the rivers are low cross the main river here, then cross the East Hawdon Stream. Follow the open grassy flats on the true left to a line of cliffs. Recross the Hawdon and follow the river down the bush edge where a last crossing of the river is needed to reach the Hawdon Shelter at the road end. If the rivers are in flood you should stay put until they drop down to a safe level.
Note: Hawdon valley is home to the endangered orange-fronted parakeet / kākāriki. DOC staff use 4-wheel motorbikes to access the valley and do work to protect these birds. Coloured markers and tape in the valley mark access points for DOC staff. Do not follow these markers - only follow the standard orange track markers.
Plan and prepare
• Experience: Fit, experienced and well equipped.
• Best season: Summer and autumn, extreme avalanche danger in winter and spring.
• NZTopomap50: Otira BV20, Cass BV21
Safety on Arthur's Pass routes
• Allow adequate time. Note the times given for each section are guides only.
• C heck snow and weather conditions. Mountain weather forecasts are available from the Arthur's Pass Visitor Centre.
• Know your ability. Arthur's Pass National Park is mountain country. Navigational skills and ability to judge weather and river conditions are essential. Be prepared to turn back if conditions are not safe.
• Never travel alone. This route is difficult.
• Tell someone where you are going. You can fill in a Search and Rescue action card at the Visitor Centre. This must be cancelled on your return.
• Take a map and compass. Topomaps for the area are available to buy or hire from the Arthur's Pass Visitor Centre.
• Cross rivers safely. Take care with river crossings especially after heavy rain. If in doubt, wait it out.
• Note: True right and true left refers to the sides of the valley when looking downstream.
What to expect on a route:
• Challenging day or multi-day tramping/hiking
• Track unformed and natural, rough, muddy or very steep
• Suitable for people with above average fitness. High level backcountry skills and experience, including navigation and survival skills required
• Complete self sufficiency required
• Track has markers, poles or rock cairns. Expect unbridged stream and river crossings
• Sturdy tramping/hiking boots required