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South Temple Valley – Ahuriri Valley circuit, Ahuriri Conservation Park

Heading up the Ahuriri with the low and high peaks of Mt Huxley on the skyline. Photo: Paul Hersey
Ahuriri Conservation Park
Total Ascent
South Temple Hut, 6 bunks; Hagens Hut, 4 bunks; Top Hut, 2 bunks
Lake Ohau Road to Temple Stream bridge and turn up Temple Stream to car park at Temple Campsite
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South Temple Valley – Ahuriri Valley circuit (gpx, yo 101 KB)
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The South Temple-North Temple crossing via Gunsight Pass is a popular weekend excursion, although it is at constant risk from rockfall on the north side and, in certain conditions, snow avalanches on both sides.

This alternative to the Gunsight Pass route, taking in the Ahuriri Valley, is much longer at two full days, travel – or three if you camp in the upper Ahuriri – and crosses two 1900m alpine passes rather than one.

Two hours through beech forest along South Temple Track leads to South Temple Hut on the edge of a grassy terrace just above the stream.

The South Branch has three tributaries, the southernmost of which originates from near Mt Maitland, which towers directly behind South Temple Hut.

Climb steeply up a grassy spur and then traverse through forest above the river to reach the first alpine pass, just to the south-east of Maitland and between Pt 2222 and Pt 2090.

Head over the pass to a branch of the Watson Stream catchment and follow various tongues into the Watson. At the main Watson Stream catchment, pass through beech forest before crossing a wide bushy plateau at 1000m, finally dropping into the Ahuriri Valley.

The Ahuriri is a popular mountain biking destination, with easy travel and plenty of huts to choose from. At 70km in length, it runs down to the Omarama Plains and has numerous climbing areas, including the impressive Mt Huxley towering at its head.

The most convenient hut to stay the night in is Hagens Hut, just a few kilometres north of Watson Stream. Head up valley past Top Hut where some sneaky route-finding required to ensure the best travel upstream. This is not technical country, but an awareness of different options would make for easier travel.

The river eventually reaches huge scree slopes below Mt Huxley, but just before these slopes, a steep, grassy spur leads to broad terraces below the second pass of the trips – between Pt 2058 and Pt 2190.

This leads back to South Temple. Once above the spur, travel is easier, with just a constant height gain to reach the pass.Find your route from the pass to rejoin the track in the South Temple, walking out via South Temple Hut.

By late summer, the passes on this trip should be clear of snow and afford a pleasant crossing.Be prepared for two 12-hour days, sometimes following formed trails and at other times having to forge your own path.