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Browning Pass to Mt Ambrose


  • P1

This is a great transalpine trip in fine weather. Many of the peaks and passes mentioned below are either traversed or easily accessible en route. From Lake Browning, descend west toward Hall Creek, sidling in on the Main Divide side and crossing two tiny gullies en route. Cross Hall Creek at about the 1240-metre contour above a small waterfall (the creek is confined below this) and continue up the valley, initially on the true right. There are some nice but open campsites on moss at about the 1280– metre contour. Gravel gives way to snow slopes that lead to Hall Col. An easy scrambling side trip on bedrock leads up to a flat-topped peak at Pt 1950 metres, where there are extensive views. To access the Retreat Snowfield, descend from the north-western corner of Hall Col. Continue down to the gravel moraine around Farquharson Saddle, a cool place to camp in fine weather. A small stream is usually flowing on gravel 100 metres north-east of Farquharson Saddle. Two routes lead to Griffiths Saddle, one using the upper gullies of Gifford Stream and the other the Main Divide ridge before sidling the last few hundred metres into the saddle. To approach Clarkes Pass from Griffiths Saddle, descend into Griffiths Stream and climb up to Clarkes Pass directly. It is tempting to keep height and sidle, but it is more messy than it looks. Active scree and loose, steep gullies of clay rock make travel arduous and unpleasant, and there is significant stone fall to watch for. South-west from Clarkes Pass, Commodore Peak is approached up snow slopes. The Divide just here is broad, with basins and outcropping shards of rock. Mt Ambrose is easily approached from Commodore Peak. From there, either descend to Hokitika Saddle, or else head north and west from Mt Ambrose down a gravel gully to the 1900-metre contour and then swing further west into a gravel basin draining towards the Kokatahi. This route then ascends a gravel and tussock basin back to the ridge at J34 652986 / BV19 552 370. Snow slopes lead to Pt 2006 metres, from where gravel slopes and bedrock lead easily north-west into the saddle before The Rampart. There is one small tarn 30 metres above the saddle on the way down. Allow two days from Browning Pass to Mt Ambrose in reasonable conditions. From this saddle (J34 642988 / BV19 542 372), a shallow gravel gully offers a good route down to join Park Stream about 200 metres up from Sokota Creek.