Rivers and major side streams can rise quickly and become dangerous. Ensure you have the latest weather information and are confident in reading rivers and know how to cross them. There are two options to reach Carrington Hut, depending on whether the river is high or low (see SH73 – Carrington Hut).
Carrington Hut has 36 bunks and a radio which is monitored by Arthur’s Pass Visitor Centre during office hours, 7 days a week. There is a wood stove for heating but you will need your own cooker and utensils.
From the hut you can take day trips to the White River or to Waimakariri Falls Hut. The Harman Pass and the 3 Passes routes also start from this hut and are detailed in separate guides.
Note: Greenlaw Hut and some track sections marked on various maps no longer exist.
Time: 4–6 hours
When the Waimakariri River is low:
From the western side of Klondyke Corner a 2 km gravel road leads to the riverbed. The quickest way to Carrington Hut is to head straight up the Waimakariri valley from this point, cutting corners and crossing the river where necessary. Aim for the lower edges of Turkey Flat. From there, either continue up the riverbed, or pick up the track behind Anti Crow Hut or at Anti Crow River.
If you prefer to continue up the riverbed, cross Waimakariri River below Greenlaw Creek, to the true left. Cross back to the true right by Harper Creek. Follow the riverbed upstream to Carrington Hut.
When the Waimakariri River is difficult to cross:
Leave SH73 on the true right of the Waimakariri River, immediately south of the road bridge over the river. A well-marked track (known as O’Malley Track) passes above bluffs to Turkey Flat by Jordan Stream. From here follow pole markers across the flats, staying high to avoid the thorny native matagouri shrubs lower down. Once past the flats, follow the bush edge to Anti Crow Hut (6 bunks). (A 400 metre section of track leading to the hut from the end of the flats can be used when the river is in flood.)
Continue along the track behind Anti Crow Hut through beech forest. The track crosses a small stream by the foundations of the original Anti Crow Hut. As you reach Anti Crow River, look for a safe place to cross.
The hard rocky knolls you cross are called roche moutonnée (French for sheep’s back). Thousands of years ago, when glaciers covered this area, the moving ice of the glacier sculpted these outcrops of hard rock. The track drops down to the Waimakariri riverbed 2 km before Greenlaw Creek.
Where the track ends in the riverbed, make your own way up the valley. If the Waimakariri is crossable, follow the best route up valley, crossing the river where necessary to above the Greenlaw Creek confluence.
Do not attempt to cross the river if it is high. Use the marked flood route up the true right instead. This is a steep arduous route over bluffs and may also be impassable if the side streams or the Waimakariri are flooded after heavy rain.
When the Greenlaw and Harper creeks are high, both are dangerous crossings. If you are unsure about any of the crossings in this area, it is safest to wait for river levels to drop. Camp or return to the nearest hut if it is safe to do so.
The track beyond Harper Creek is well marked although the riverbed provides the fastest route, conditions permitting.
As you get closer to Carrington Hut, keep an eye out for the serrated top of Carrington Peak. Just before White River joins the Waimakariri, a short section of marked track leads to Carrington Hut, marked by a large cairn and orange marker.
Time: 6-7 hours return
The trip up the White Valley is an enjoyable day walk of up to 6 to 7 hours return. After crossing the White River at or above the old Clough Cableway, stay on the true left of the river. At the head of the valley there is a steep unmarked route up to CMC’s Barker Hut. This last part of the valley, by the bluffs, is recommended only for experienced parties.
Time: 6–10 hours return
Walk to Waimakariri Falls Hut (6 bunks) through dramatic alpine scenery, with waterfalls running down sheer rock faces to gentle tarn-studded alpine herbfields. It takes 3 to 5 hours to walk from Carrington Hut to Waimakariri Falls Hut. This is a Canterbury Mountaineering Club hut, and is not a DOC hut. The upper beech forest edge and beginning of the alpine zone are only 1 hour from Carrington Hut. The waterfalls, tussocks and alpine plants you can see there are well worth a visit.
This route passes through several known avalanche paths. During heavy snow conditions we advise visitors not to travel this route unless sufficiently equipped and experienced to assess the snow conditions and choose a safe path through avalanche terrain.
Warning: Waimakariri Falls Hut is located in known avalanche paths. Avalanches are most likely to occur during and following heavy snowfall or rain when snow loading is present on the upper mountain slopes. Do not use this hut during these high-risk periods. Check Arthur's Pass avalanche forecast
The route from Waimakariri Falls Hut to the Rolleston River is a non-maintained alpine crossing.
Visitors are advised not to travel this route unless sufficiently equipped, possess solid navigation skills and are experienced to assess the weather and avalanche conditions.
The unmarked route over the Waimakariri Col. to the Rolleston River is part of a rugged two-to-three-day alpine tramp. The upper Waimakariri Valley and the Rolleston valley are rugged and involve steep, boulder descents and steep sidling through scrub, scree and across avalanche chutes.
An ice axe, crampons and the knowledge to use them is essential as snow and ice may be present year-round.
The recommended crossing point is between point 1845 and Mt Armstrong as shown on the NZTopo 50 map (higher and further northwest of Waimakariri Col.)
DO NOT attempt to cross the divide at Waimakariri Col.
Time: 2–3 hr
From Waimakariri Falls Hut you can see a ravine and two lines of bluffs to its left. Travel up the true left to the ravine in the middle of the valley and cross the Waimakariri River below the ravine. Go up the scree between the two bluffs. This will take you above the lower bluffs. Sidle to the right to get around the upper bluffs. The low point in the ridge where you cross is between Point 1845 and Mt Armstrong. Make your own way through bluffs to this point well to the northwest of Waimakariri Col.
Time: 4 hr
From the ridge, travel is down the stream draining the small glacier on the slopes of Mt Armstrong. The gully running parallel to the stream develops into a steep chute and should not be entered. Leave the stream where it begins to level out in the basin below.
Rolleston River has a series of steep gorges and waterfalls. Stay high above the true left of the river; sidle to the left well above Rolleston River. Sidle down to the knob near the bottom of the basin, a cairn may be present on top.
From the knob follow a worn trail down its ridge, through rocky outcrops. Stay high and do not drop onto the flattish tussocky terrace below. Instead, cross the first scree slope you come to. In a few minutes you will come to a small side stream. Cross this above its junction with the Rolleston River.
Climb the scrub covered slopes on the true left for approximately 100 m, then sidle above the Rolleston River across areas of extremely steep scree, tussock and scrub slowly descending with the fall of the river below for about 2 hours (1 km). If there is snow around, be aware of the possibility of avalanches. At the northern end of this long traverse is a narrow, boulder strewn scree slope, with scrub covered bluffs on its downstream side. Descend to the Rolleston River crossing to the true right. The marked route is picked up here.
Below this point the Rolleston River becomes heavily gorged with several large and impassable waterfalls.
Time: 2 hr
The route climbs a short distance before sidling above the river for approximately 1.5 km ending at a scree slope. Which is easily descended to the river. Boulder hop downstream, crossing to the true left when the riverbed turns to shingle. Follow the KiwiRail access road out to SH73. Otira can be reached in about an hour from here.
The trip starts at SH73 on the true right of the Waimakariri River, just south of the Bealey road bridge (about 10 km east of Arthur's Pass village). The route follows O'Malleys Track for the first stage of the trip.
Experience: Suitable for trampers with high level backcountry skills and experience. River knowledge and crossing skills essential.
Best season: All year
Required map: NZTopo50: Otira BV20
Hazards: Flooded rivers, and avalanche risk on day trips above Carrington Hut
Note: True left and true right refer to the side of the valley or river when facing and looking downstream.
Safety: This route guide must be read in conjunction with Tramping in Arthur's Pass National Park (PDF, 762K), and New Zealand's Outdoor Safety Code. Before setting out, check the latest track conditions and avalanche advisory with the Arthur's Pass Visitor Centre.
Eligible people must be fully vaccinated to use DOC accommodation.