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Mt Guinevere Tarn, Arthur’s Pass National Park

A rocky campsite beneath Mt Guinevere on the shore of the tarn. Photo: Dennis Radermacher
Arthur's Pass National Park
Total Ascent
Crow Hut ($5, 10 bunks)
Park at the end of the dirt road opposite Klondyke Campsite off SH73
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Mt Guinevere Tarn.Arthurs Pass NP (gpx, yo 47 KB)
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The journey to Mt Guinevere tarn asks a lot of a tramper. Good navigation skills, proficiency at river crossings and healthy stamina are just a few of the required attributes.

Starting from Klondyke Corner, the route follows Waimakariri River, an ever-changing network of meandering branches, crossing the river several times before reaching Crow Valley Track.

After crossing through a short section of forest, the track turns north and stays on the true left of Crow River for 1.5km.  Where a small stream from below Lyell Peak flows into Crow River, it crosses one final time to the true right.

Weaving in and out of beech forest, the track eventually arrives at the beautifully located Crow Hut in the upper Crow Valley.

At this point, the valley opens up and offers stunning views of Mt Rolleston and its glaciers. Crow Hut is a stunning destination for a late lunch and a staging area for the challenging final leg of the trip to Guinevere tarn. The track cuts through 100m of forest just north of the hut and onto a boulder field. From there, a standard topo map lacks the level of detail required to help navigate to the tarn.

Turn west and aim straight up the steep boulder field for a waterfall at its top. It’s tempting to climb up the right shoulder of this narrow valley, but to make it to the destination, stay on the boulder field and turn left by the first waterfall.

The terrain narrows into a steep gully with a smaller waterfall on the side. Just before that gully ends in a vertical step, a very obvious diagonal ledge runs up to its left shoulder. Follow the shoulder until meeting an open area covered in alpine scrub. Here, the same pattern repeats.

Then the terrain begins to flatten out.

Aim south-west to arrive at the bottom of Guinevere tarn’s dam. Cross a stream and another short climb for a great view across the high basin below Mt Guinevere. The unusually barren terrain hints at rough winters near the Divide. The tarn itself is surrounded by a hostile-looking landscape of rock.

At the south-western edge of the lake, garage-sized boulders offer some shelter and a place to pitch your tent.

From the dam is a gorgeous view of the big pile of scree tumbled from Avalanche Peak and Mt Bealey.

Mt Guinevere tarn is a challenging destination and the upper Crow Valley is prone to devastating avalanches outside late summer or autumn.

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