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Waitaha River


The Waitaha provides arduous access to remote Ivory Lake, the Smyth, Bloomfield, Lange and Hitchin Ranges and is occasionally used by parties exiting from Mt Evans. Travel in the valley has never been easy. Forest Service tracks, DOC recuts, and work by a voluntary group (Permolat) have all been trashed over time by regrowth, storms and snowfall, so expect slow going and thick vegetation. Despite that, the marked route remains followable and the huts and bridges are a blessing when faced with the alternatives in poor weather. The upper Waitaha has an appealing isolation about it, where the weather may challenge as much as the peaks.

POINT (170.857147 -43.127958)
BW18 257 227

Road to Kiwi Flat Hut
Turn off SH6 near Pukekura and follow the gravel Allen Road up the south bank (true left) of the Waitaha River. At the end of the formed road there is a locked gate and an area of private land. Access through here is a privilege rather than a right: please respect that by contacting P D Farms Limited (David Beckham, phone 03 762 7020) for permission. An old 4wd track leads as shown on map sheets I34 and BW18 along the base of the hill, in scrub then forest, through to Douglas Creek. Beyond here, the track leads to travel on river boulders. Climb up shortly before Glamour Glen and follow the track, maintained by DOC, through forest to Kiwi Flat. Open flats lead to Whirling Water and the DOC triangle indicating Kiwi Flat Hut back on a terrace.
Time: 2 ½ hrs
Kiwi Flat Hut to Moonbeam Hut
From Kiwi Flat Hut, the track to Moonbeam Hut climbs and sidles across a couple of open slips (straightforward) and forested slopes, descending to river level as marked about 10 minutes downstream from a huge rock in the riverbed, and 45 minutes before the hut. River boulders are followed upstream, with sections of track in places, such as between J34 310831 / BW18 210 215 and J34 313831 / BW18 213 215. Climb up to the hut from the bridge.
Time : Kiwi to Moonbeam, 6 hrs.
Moonbeam to Top Waitaha Hut
From Moonbeam Hut, follow the track up valley to the sign where the County track splits from the Windhover Gorge track. Forest damage has made this very challenging since the track was last cleared in 2007. Descend to the bridge, cross it and follow river boulders up to a small stream. Ascend this a short distance, to find the track entering bush on the true left. A climbing sidle leads to another stream and then the permolat track follows the ridge up to the 900-metre contour. It then turns off the ridge and descends steeply to cross Chainman Creek and a terrace of tall scrub to return to the Waitaha riverbank at J34 339840 / BW18 239 224. Above here, follow the true right up a boulder cascade, sidling in scrub behind boulders as necessary, until the river levels off and more open country is reached. This last kilometre or two is hard, untracked travel, slowed by horrendous scrub. A rock bivvy sleeping four to six is reported at J34 351844 / BW18 251 228, about 20 metres above the river and 20 metres towards a spur on the trueleft of a creek. The river is readily crossed at tussock flats near Top Waitaha Hut. Descending, cross the river to the true right on the flats and thrash downstream. The track climbing over Windhover Gorge begins 50 metres up Chainman Creek on the true right.
Times : Moonbeam to Chainman Creek, 4–7 hrs ; Chainmans to Top Waitaha Hut, at least 4 hrs
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Yvonne Cook and Geoff Spearpoint,
in association with the Canterbury Mountaineering Club