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Barker Hut via Avalanche Peak, Arthur’s Pass National Park

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January 2021 Issue

Ultimate Arthur’s Pass adventure

This trip is an absolute must for anyone ready to be challenged over varied terrain, including tracks, scree slopes and boulder-covered river beds.

It starts on the popular Avalanche Peak Track in Arthur’s Pass, and, while well defined, its steepness is challenging when carrying a heavy pack. The view from the top is stunning and on a bluebird day summiters will be rewarded with extensive vistas over the national park.

Avalanche Peak is the last point marked with DOC’s orange poles leading the way. From there, the route heads west, towards the Crow Valley, by traversing around the south side of the peak. Heading north for around 1km to reach Pt1658 you can descend the significant scree-filled gully to the Crow River. This is the only gully that leads cleanly to the valley floor and is a highlight of the route. (We ran down the slope, quickly losing around 500m. Large boulders closer to the valley floor slowed our descent, but it was never too difficult.)

There’s only a couple of faint trails and it is best to look for the most suitable way down especially if on your own.

At the valley floor, the Crow River is crossed and the trail continues to Crow Hut. This bright and cosy hut is a welcome mountain refuge and the perfect place to rest ahead of the next day’s long walk.

This second leg covers some demanding terrain – primarily rocky riverbeds and a couple of river crossings.

From Crow Hut, stay on the true right of the river until the midpoint of the valley where a track marker indicates a crossing point to reach the opposite bank. After another 2km of travel, the river is re-crossed and the Waimakariri Valley is entered. Here, the route turns west on its way to Carrington Hut.

If the water levels are low, it’s best to stay on the true left of the Waimakariri and resist the temptation to follow the track that goes to Crow Hut on the opposite side of the Crow Valley, as more elevation gain is required. Since the river is deep at some spots, take care to choose the best crossing place. There’s a good place at the bend in the river before Greenlaw Creek.

Now, on the true right of the Waimakariri, the track can be followed through the beech forest or continued up the riverbed.

Carrington Hut is large and provides convenient access to many incredible single and multi-day hikes, such as the Three Passes Route, Waimakariri Falls and Julia Hut. If time allows, it would make a good spot to rest before carrying on to Barker Hut.

Shortly after leaving Carrington, a sign indicates the direction to Barker Hut. The rocky track goes on the true right of the White River, passing the Clough Cableway which spans the river and is best used only in emergencies because it is extremely diff-icult to operate.

While the remainder of the route is unmarked, there is a couple of cairns indicating the best path. Cross the river shortly before the stream leading to Kilmarnock Falls and continue on this side through the tussock grass and over rock slips.

About halfway up the White River, a magnificent view of Barker Hut appears, sitting atop granite rock beneath the White Glacier. A defined trail, which leads to the hut, is eventually encountered at the bottom of the main bluff.

The hut was first built in 1945 by the Canterbury Mountaineering Club, which still operates it. However, after being buried by an avalanche, it was rebuilt in 1980 in a safer location. The entire White River is considered unsafe to walk during winter and early spring, as there are numerous avalanche paths in the valley.

Barker Hut is mostly used as a base for mountaineering missions and provides excellent access to Mts Davie, Murchinson, Harper and Wakeman. There is plenty to keep trampers interested too, with spectacular views to three glaciers and down the White River.

– Beate Manguse

Total Ascent
To Crow Hut via Avalanche Peak, 5-6hr; To Barker Hut, 7-8hr; Barker Hut to Klondyke Corner and SH73, 8hr.
Crow Hut ($5, 10 bunks), Carrington Hut ($15, 36 bunks), Barker Hut ($7, 10 bunks)
From Arthur’s Pass Village

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Barker Hut via Avalanche Peak (gpx, 11 KB)

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