There are few mountains as inaccessible as those in the Central Darrans - they are gifts for the adventurous climber seeking an experience not to be found anywhere else in New Zealand. However there is the matter of commitment, as the quickest approaches require a minimum twelve hours travel over difficult, unforgiving terrain. The mountains are orientated in the shape of two crescent moons, their cirques draining eastwards into the Hollyford Valley. The Te Puoho Glacier draining into Chasm Creek, provides access to Taiaroa, Karetai and Te Wera. The larger and less glaciated region around Lake Turner, which drains into Cleft Creek, provides access to Patuki, Waitere, Mahere, Tarewai and the imposing Milne. Both regions have limited shelter with no easy outs during bad weather, route finding is tricky and the terrain exposed.
Rainbow Lake to Te Puoho Glacier
This is the best route into the Te Puoho, but it is still a long day, at least. Start up the Moraine Creek track. An hour’s walk will bring you to a large open creek draining from a chasm above. Climb up this until you can sidle into a gully on the true left. Climb up this, which narrows to a cleft, and eventually move out onto steep vegetated slabs near the top. Once on the ridge, sidle around to Rainbow Lake. From the outlet, head around the lake in an anticlockwise direction, climbing well above the lake until you can sidle to a col between Rainbow Lake and Boulder Basin. Drop down a short way into the basin but sidle around and then up slabs to a notch in the ridge above. This is the northeast ridge of Tuhawaiki. Beyond, easy rock slabs lead around to the terminal lake of the glacier.
Via Moraine Creek and Korako Glacier
From the saddle at the top of the moraine wall above Hut Flat take the crest of the curving moraine ‘til it meets the wall below Mt Revelation. Sidle left a short way to break through a rock band. Follow a line of weakness zig-zagging upwards to a small col on the ridge. Cross steep slabs by either a very high or low traverse to a small tussock ledge and bivvy site below the Korako Icefall. From the Korako Glacier there are two routes to the Te Puoho Glacier:
- Along the South East Ridge of Revelation, over summit then down the North Ridge.
- Over Crampon Pass. The wall rising from the Korako Glacier to the pass will usually require at least a pitch of modest climbing depending on the height of the snow.
Either option puts you on the Te Puoho neve, which in late summer can be heavily crevassed. Neither option is a packing route.
Boulder Basin to Te Puoho Glacier
Cross the Hollyford above Chasm Creek, then follow the bush spur on the south side of Chasm Creek to a scrub-covered basin, climbing to a high basin of large boulders. This, unsurprisingly, is Boulder Basin. From here, follow the Rainbow Lake route above.
Patuki Col to Te Puoho Glacier
From Patuki Col ascend the West Ridge of Karetai to where it is possible to sidle across on a wandering ledge system to the North Ridge. Descending this, moderate scrambling on excellent rock, to Karetai Col and the Te Puoho neve. Karetai Col can also be reached from the Lake Turner basin via Lindsays Ledges.