At 1854m, Tara Tama is not high by Southern Alps standards, but with over 1600m of vertical ascent along a tortuous ridge, you may see why this remote outlier of the Main Divide is seldom climbed. For all that, March provides a period when rivers are low, the weather is more settled and a little cooler for high, open tops travel.
From SH73, the easy track follows the Taipo River until just before Dillons Homestead Hut, where the river must be forded – a challenge that can end the trip before it has even started. The Taipo drains a massive area of Arthur’s Pass National Park and often carries a substantial volume of water. However, in low to moderate flows, a good ford can usually be found just downstream of Seven Mile Creek.
Once across, an old, roughly-marked and difficult-to-find track climbs a spur to the bushline at 1000m. Here begins six kilometres of meandering skyline traverse, all the way to Scottys Saddle.
Cloud often hugs the high ridges here for days at a time, making progress difficult and sometimes dangerous. A tiny two-bunk bivvy is sited 200m below the ridge-crest in the head of Scottys Creek. This section and the summit push itself are the most spectacular and rewarding parts of the trip. As the ridge heads south-west, a sheer scarp to the north allows unobstructed views over northern Westland and toward the
Tasman Sea, a truly breathtaking sight which broadens in spectacle as the long summit ridge is gained.
Care is required as ridge rents and teetering, house-sized boulders line the route and sometimes require small diversions. The summit is broad and flat with a view of the Alps and foothills that is unrivalled in this part of the Divide – enjoy it.
There are options for a round trip, but all require care and sound navigation skills. One is to descend into the head of Dunn Creek near Dunn Saddle, which requires returning along the summit ridge to Pt1751, or descending from Pt1612, east of Tara Tama, directly south into a creek running into Dunns Creek about 500m west of Dunns Creek Hut.
However you cut it, Tara Tama is a big mountain offering a demanding ascent through fantastic terrain.