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November 2015 Issue
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11 trips around NLNP’s Franklin Ridge

Map by Geographx

Nelson Lakes National Park

Located right in the heart of Nelson Lakes National Park, Franklin Ridge forms a roughly shaped arrowhead pointing almost due north down the Sabine Valley.

The ridge carries the distinction of having the park’s highest summit, Mt Franklin, 2340m, as well as numerous other spot heights at over 2000m with most at, or near, 2200m giving the ridge a wall-like appearance from the valley floor. Indeed it is high, rough terrain which will involve a tramp of at least two days to reach via the Sabine, Travers, or Waiau valleys.

Of note is the large alpine Lake Constance, hidden in a deep cleft to the south-west of the range. It is one of the largest alpine lakes in the Southern Alps, with nearby Blue Lake being one of the most beautiful and containing some of the purest water in the world.

Mt Franklin is an imposing sight for any tramper accessing the area via the Sabine Valley and therefore the goal of climbing parties.

1. Blue Lake

Scientifically proven to be almost optically perfect, with underwater visibility approaching 80m, Blue Lake contains some of the purest water in the world. The water entering the lake is filtered by the huge rock dam that impounds Lake Constance.

2. Lake Constance

This large body of water lies at an altitude of 1340m. A rough trail exists around the west side of the lake to reach the lake head and Waiau Pass. The lake is just over 2km long.

3. Blue Lake Hut

This large comfortable hut stands near the shore of Blue Lake and provides shelter and an excellent base for exploring the region, climbing Mt Franklin or attempting one of the trans-alpine passes nearby. It takes one to two days to reach the hut from Lake Rotoroa.

4. Sabine Forks

A popular destination in the beautiful Sabine Valley, Sabine Forks has West Sabine hut, which is large enough to cope with the numbers of trampers who regularly use the Travers Saddle route from Lake Rotoiti. The setting is remote and sublime, nestled under the ranges beside large rivers.

5. Sabine River East Branch

The tracked route to Travers Saddle carries on up the Sabine River East Branch and climbs to the saddle. However, the upper valley is untracked, remote, and heavily bushed. Adventurous trampers will find a route to the upper valley and a wild isolated catchment.

6. Sabine River West Branch

This is the main tracked route to Blue Lake and Lake Constance. The valley climbs gradually to the bushline passing through a long corridor of avalanche-swept gullies which can be treacherous in winter.

7. Moss Pass

To the west of Blue Lake Hut is a high crossing to the D’Urville Valley via Moss Pass, 1785m. While this is a poled route, it is still challenging and can carry significant avalanche risk.

8. Mt Franklin

This 2340m summit can be reached from the south end of Blue Lake, climbing through forest to reach a high shoulder and then into a large basin draining the west face.

9. Waiau Pass

A Main Divide pass, long popular with trans-alpine trampers to access the upper Waiau Valley or Thompson Pass and Lake Thompson at the head of the Waiau. It is also one of the major crossings of the Main Divide on the Te Araroa Trail. At 1870m, it is a committing crossing and should not be underestimated.

10. Clarence Pass

The extreme head of the Sabine River East Branch offers high routes to neighbouring catchments with, Clarence Pass, 1900m, below Belvedere Peak, being the best option to reach the upper Clarence River. There is good camping on high benches below the pass in the East Sabine.

11. Travers Saddle/Rainbow Pass

After Lake Angelus and Robert Ridge, this tracked and poled route is the most popular multiday trek in Nelson Lakes and encompasses both the Travers and lower Sabine valleys.