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November 2012 Issue
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Solution-Hooker Range

Crossing Marks Flat - a destination in itself
Hooker Landsborough Wilderness Area

Deep in the wild south-west where the country twists and rends itsway through the equivalent of a topographical maze stand the Hooker and Solution ranges. These two mountainous ranges lie west of the Landsborough River and are completely immersed in the complex watersheds of South Westland. The Hooker Range descends south and west from its Main Divide connection near the head of the Mueller Glacier and has innumerable glaciated summits along its length, most notably mounts Strachan, Dechen, Fettes Peak, and the Hooker massif.

The Solution Range has much easier tramping terrain and as such provides one of the key access points to Marks Flat and Mt Hooker. Most of the ranges are enclosed within the Hooker Landsborough Wilderness Area and are therefore only accessible on foot – this is truly remote and wild terrain.

1. Clarke River
One of the best ways to access the wilderness area and Marks Flat for climbing Mt Hooker is via the beautiful Clarke Valley, but be warned there are no tracks, huts or bridges here and entering the valley from the south requires fording the Landsborough. Travel is reasonably straightforward and there are excellent campsites throughout.

2. Landsborough River
Unique among South Island rivers, the Landsborough flows for 70km parallel to the Main Divide and therefore carries huge volumes of water for much of the year. The lower valley is tracked and has one hut, Fraser, while the upper valley is wild and has limited options for trans-alpine trips, the most notable being over to the Mueller or Mt Gladiator to the Karangarua. The Landsborough can be followed to its head by fit and experienced parties.

3. Zeilian Pass
This is a reasonable though untracked route linking the lower Clarke Valley, via Zeilian Creek, with the Moeraki River and access out through this catchment to SH6.

4. Lower Otoko Pass
This route grants moderately difficult access to the upper Otoko Valley, which is a difficult valley to ascend or descend having no tracks and large areas of impenetrable scrub and bush. Despite this it is still regularly used as a tramping route to Marks Flat and Mt Hooker, taking around 3-4 days to reach the former.

5. Marks Flat
Nestled directly beneath the south face of Mt Hooker, the easy slopes of the Solution Range and the black bluffs of Kea Cliffs, Marks Flat is a destination in itself. It is in a stunning location right in the wilderness area. There are several bivvy rocks around the large flat and excellent campsites.

6. McCullaugh-Paringa Pass
This is a steep, untracked route linking McCullaugh Creek, an upper Clarke tributary, with the Paringa River and Tunnel Hut. It can be added to a Lower Otoko Pass traverse to make a challenging week’s tramp linking the Otoko-Clarke-Paringa catchments.

7. Mt Hooker
Mt Hooker (2640m) is undoubtedly lord of the region and dominates much of the range and any view from the south and west. The peak is beset by glaciers on all sides, drenched by frequent storms and surrounded by tumultuous rivers. Climbing it is a well-won privilege and by no means a certainty in this rugged region. The standard route is from Marks Flat via the Hooker Glacier.

8. Mt Dechen
New Zealand’s only ice-cap glacier is located on Mt Dechen (2643m) between the upper Otoko and Landsborough rivers. Approaches are more difficult than Mt Hooker, via either the Landsborough or McCardell Glacier, but once on the glaciers the summit approach is relatively easy.

9. Crossing to the Landsborough
The Solution Range provides the best option for crossing between the Landsborough and upper Clarke, with easy tussock tops allowing ready access with only modest route finding skills involved. Fording the Landsborough can never be taken lightly and is often marginal, if not impossible.

10. Brodrick Pass
The best all round route into the region, and for access onto the Hooker Range, is via Brodrick Pass (1640m), a Main Divide pass from the Huxley-Hopkins valleys in the east. This still requires good weather and low river levels for fording the Landsborough.

11. Traverses
The Solution Range can be readily traversed all the way from the Landsbrough-Clarke confluence to Mt Gow, above Lower Otoko Pass. Beyond here travel is difficult and impracticable. Hooker Range could be traversed in sections by mountaineers.

 

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