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Waimak Col (Otira to Klondyke), Canterbury

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Waimak Col (Otira to Klondyke)Very Experienced

Submitted by Mike Steel

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Trail Information






Arthurs Pass

Back country - remote

Point to Point (one way)


Native bush
Open tussock/grasslands

Very Experienced

Not Suitable (Slow)
9:00 (Moderate)
6:00 (Fast)



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Place a bike at the end of the gravel road at Klondyke corner and drive to near Otira. Head back up the road, and just before the bridge cross a locked gate and continue on a gravel railway service road to the train tunnel, then follow the slightly overgrown but scenic Rolleston river track (easiest to start following it on the northern side, but some crossings further upstream). When the valley first narrows with a gorge looming ahead of you keep an eye out for cairns and a prominent steep gully of broken rock descending from the left. Head up this gully till you spot an orange triangle marker leading you out of this gully. The track then climbs and sidles through scrub and then undulates through dense bush - be careful not to lose the track and don't descend to the Rolleston river until it's obviously time to do so). When you meet the river, continue on up-valley (if you stay in the river too long you will get into a gorge which is passable but tricky so you may want to climb out to the right before then). Further up, towards the head of the valley you will see two cols on the divide ahead of you - avoid the lower one on the left (it has a glacier on the other side which would be no fun at all in running shoes!). Head for the middle col which is the "Waimakariri Col" (1787m) as marked on the topomap (this is not the recommended tramping route, which goes further right/west but is likely to have snow on it). The middle col is steep and exposed but easy to climb (tend left as you head up on the firm rock). From the col it is possible to climb further westward on rock up to various high view points, or just chill out on the col and admire the views. It's fast going most of the rest of the way -- descend to the cute and well-positioned Waimakariri Falls hut (from the col follow cairns - initially heading out right then finding a good descent route down). It is worth checking out the waterfalls near the hut. Continue down through some impressive country on the true right of the river and eventually the track emerges from the bush and you cross the glacier-fed White River; from here you can make the slight detour to lob into Carrington Hut. Then it's a cruisy jaunt down the main Waimakariri River - mostly following trails on the true right, and crossing near Turkey Flat to the left to pick up the gravel road and find your bike.

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Features of interest

An awesome and relatively remote summertime run from the rainforests of the west coast, over the main divide (Waimakariri Col), past tarns, alpine gardens, gorges, waterfalls and glaciated peaks, with a final romp down the expansive, braided Waimakariri River valley. A bike-ride gets you back to the car via Arthurs Pass with an exhilarating descent of the Otira gorge.

Make Up of Run

Untracked / Route only: 40%

Technical Single Track: 40%

Moderate Single Track: 10%

Farm Road / 4WD Track: 5%

Sealed Road: 5%

Route Data


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Overlapping Runs

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I did it!
  • Access


    Park anywhere near or in Otira (turn side-mirrors in to avoid possible kea damage).

    13 km

    14 minutes



  • Staying Safe

    Very hard.

    Be careful to pick up the Rolleston River track where it first leaves the river. Also, when it arrives back at the river take note of where this is in case you need to turn back before the col (people going in the opposite direction have got lost after missing it). Higher up, ensure you can find the col to cross (e.g. if cloud comes in - a map and compass would be helpful). After the col, it's pretty straightforward. As a run, it's not a good idea to do it in reverse.


    Long-sleeved thermal top, Seam-sealed waterproof jacket, Gloves, Beanie/thermal headwear, Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), Whistle, First aid kit, Extra food for emergencies, Survival blanket, Cellphone, Compass, Map.

    Plenty of water the whole way and at the various huts you will pass along the way.

    Only really feasible as a run in summer-autumn, when the col is clear of snow (the south side particularly).

    Don't attempt this run if the rivers are up (there are some rivers you have to cross - e.g. the fast-flowing White River tributary of the Waimak.).

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