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September 2017 Issue
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Pass with care

Climbing to Browning Pass with the Wilberforce Valley below. Photo: Pat Barrett
2-3 days
Browning Pass can be accessed up the Wilberforce Valley from Lake Coleridge
Browning Pass/Noti Raureka, Arthur’s Pass National Park

Most keen trampers will have either been, or plan to go, over Browning Pass at some time in their outdoor career. The pass is part of the classic Three Passes Route through the Main Divide from the Upper Waimakariri River to Westland and also includes Harman and Whitehorn passes.

As such it sometimes rates as a pretty easy route with no particular difficulty – but that’s on a good day. Even then it’s no cake-walk.

This was my fourth visit to the pass and for the first time, I noticed the route had changed and was more difficult than previously.

Despite now having a good poled route to the top, and easy access into the scree slope from the base of the ascent, the top third of the access has crumbled and the erosion has over-steepened some sections, removing all the scree and producing small steps with large loose blocks lying about ready to plummet down-slope at the smallest tap.

With care placing our feet, taking our time, and moving together through the most difficult parts, we avoided any catastrophe and found our passage to the crest steady and sound.

It was still nice to get there though, to stop and look back down from the safety of the basin above and think, “I’m glad I don’t have to go down that.”