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Butler River


A DOC-maintained track leads up to the head of the Butler, but remember this is the West Coast, and even with tracks travel can be challenging. A bridge across the South Branch has improved access to Ice Lake. The mountains up here are awe-inspiring in height and grandeur. The Mawson Glacier is sometimes used to approach the Main Divide and Neish Plateau from here, and the stream below Ice Lake and the spur on its true right used to approach Grey Pass. Great transalpine lines. The Butler gives access to peaks such as Mt Huss, Dog Kennel Peak and Mt Victoire.

POINT (170.43005 -43.41652)
BX16 919 897

Butler Junction Hut to Ice Lake
From Butler Junction Hut a marked DOC track (recut in 2009) leads up to Top Butler Hut. To continue to Ice Lake, cross the Butler River South Branch on a new bridge then follow a cut and well-marked track (initially high above the river) to good camping at the south-west end of the lake.
Times: Butler Junction to Top Butler Hut, 2 hrs; Top Butler Hut to Ice Lake, 2 hrs.
Butler Junction Hut to upper Gunn River
From the Butler Junction bridge over the Whataroa a maintained DOC marked route climbs to the scrubline on the Gunn Ridge, with big coloured marker poles near Pt 1203 metres. Above here markers cease, and the spur up onto the range is scrubby, narrow and eroding in places but negotiable. From the old cairn where the spur meets the Gunn Ridge, follow the ridge up to 1700 metres, then descend the valley that heads north from Pt 1854 metres to about the 1560-metre contour. From here sidle mostly west, crossing streams and climbing to 1700 metres again before swinging north-west down broad tussock slopes to lower flats in the upper Gunn basin. There are good campsites in the upper basin of the Gunn River to climb from.
Descending from Gunn Ridge to the Whataroa, some have found the top of the tracked spur dangerous under loose snow and instead used the ridge over Pt 825 metres, which is less steep. This was reported as scrubby but reasonable going, as is McCormick Creek lower down.
Time: Butler Junction Hut to cairn on Gunn Ridge, 5 hrs

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Yvonne Cook and Geoff Spearpoint,
in association with the Canterbury Mountaineering Club