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Wilberforce River


The Wilberforce River is rarely visited by climbing parties – the upper reaches involve a long approach via the riverbed itself or are more commonly reached by transalpine parties from the Waimakariri Valley or the West Coast. The Wilberforce peaks are generally small and present few technical difficulties, although locally the rock is very loose and some of the side creeks used for approaches can be gorged or bluffed and deceptively tricky to negotiate once the snow has melted. Most peaks on the Rolleston Range almost never see an ascent; even the more frequented peaks, such as Mt Bryce, Mt Williams and Turret Peak, are rarely climbed. Mts Murchison and Greenlaw are the most popular peaks included in this section, but both tend to be approached from the Waimakariri River.
The Wilberforce catchment leads to seven passes that cross the Main Divide, as well as several other passes that allow travel between various valleys east of the Divide.

POINT (171.388385 -43.268413)
BW20 692 081

Wilberforce River access
Access by 4WD is generally straightforward along the true left of the Wilberforce River as far as Bristed Stream, although crossing Fang Stream can be tricky. There are two alternatives, one following a rutted high-level track through matagouri which leads directly to Fang Hill Hut, and an alternative low-level track along the base of the fan. Ring Jamie or Fiona at Glenthorne Station (phone 03 318 5801) for permission and the latest travel conditions, and call into the station to pay a road-use fee. 4WD vehicles can be taken further upriver if conditions allow.
It is a long walk to the head of the Wilberforce River. Follow the true left of the river as far as Bristed Stream. If the river is low a crossing can be made here and travel upriver continues on the true right. In high water, a route exists in scrub above the river where it abuts a small bluff. At the end of the bluff, drop back down to the river and continue on the true left to Burnet Stream. Gain the terrace on the north side of the Burnet Stream confluence and look for an old sign at the west side of the terrace, marking an overgrown trail through bush. The trail continues for 3.5 km around the base of Sebastopol before rejoining the Wilberforce River opposite Park Morpeth Hut. Cross again to the true left above the Cronin Stream confluence, and either continue to the zigzag track to Browning Pass or follow the Wilberforce north-east to Popes Pass.
In low water, river crossings can usually be found that allow access to the most commonly used tributaries, such as Boulderstone, Kakapo, Kiwi, Moa and Unknown Streams.
Manuels Hut : Mt Algidus Station (private)
Moa Stream Hut (DOC): A four-bunk hut, hidden in bush above the river.
Moa Hut, situated alongside Wilberforce River, Mt Algidus Station (private)
Unknown Hut (DOC) : A tidy four-person hut.
Urquharts Hut (DOC) : A historic hut with beech-pole frame, earth floor and six sack bunks. The hut was built to accommodate prospectors involved in an unsuccessful mining scheme instigated during the Great Depression in the 1930s.
Park Morpeth Hut (CMC) : A six-bunk hut with mountain radio.
Weka Burnet Bivouac (DOC) : A two-person bivvy hidden in swampy bush marked with an orange triangle.
Fang Hill Hut (Glenthorne Station) : A fee is charged per night, payable to Glenthorne Station. Ask for permission.

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In August 2015 it was possible to drive to Bristed Stream in a factory standard 4wd. The track was reasonable throughout with 2 bumpy crossings of side creeks. The route through the station was not open but we entered the river bed at the intake for the Wilberforce canal and followed a well marked track thereafter. about 2 hrs from the end of the dirt road to Bristed Stream. From there it was about 1.5 hrs walk to Urquharts Hut.The Wilberforce River was low and easy to cross - it had been 48 hrs since the last storm. Driving in this side would be a great way to access all the unfrequented peaks in the Rolleston Range, as well as giving access to Greenlaw and Murchison (which we climbed from the Wilberforce).

Fri, 04/09/2015 - 20:08 Permalink
Yvonne Cook and Geoff Spearpoint,
in association with the Canterbury Mountaineering Club