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Above the sandfly line

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October 2020 Issue

Harman Pass, Arthur's Pass National Park

Harman Pass is the first pass on the classic Three Passes route. It can be reached in a long day from the Klondyke Corner road end and makes a splendid campsite for those who want a taste of the route, but don’t have the time or experience to complete the full four-five day journey.

Our trip began with a rubble-bash up the Waimakariri River to Carrington Hut, where we enjoyed a break. Continuing again in the afternoon, it didn’t take long before we were sloshing across the White River to gain access to the narrow, boulder-filled Taipoiti River and the route to Harman Pass.

It felt a little sinister in the depths of the gorge, with the river roaring and light rain spits gradually intensifying. The weather seemed to be deteriorating ahead of the forecast as we climbed out of the steepest section of the gorge onto wider, more open tussock and scree tops.

At Harman Pass (1321m), clouds swirled but momentary glimpses of Whitehorn Pass (1753m) were clear enough. Ariels Tarns made for a classic alpine camping spot, with not a sandfly in sight.

Overnight rain had us worried about the descent back to the Waimakariri – would the Taipoiti be in flood? I was pleasantly surprised to find the descent was easier than the ascent. A careful hour or so of slippery scrambling saw us back down on the true left of the White River and then a sustained push back down the Waimak to Klondyke Corner.

Total Ascent
Moderate / Difficult
Klondyke Corner to Carrington Hut, 4-5hr; To Waimakariri Falls Hut 2-3hr
Carrington Hut ($15, 36 bunks)
From SH73, Klondyke Corner car park

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