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Three Passes, Canterbury

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Three PassesIntermediate - Experienced

Submitted by Alastair McDowell

Info Info
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Trail Information







Back country - remote

Point to Point (one way)

Very hilly

Native bush
Open tussock/grasslands
Open ridges/tops

Intermediate - Experienced

Not Suitable (Slow)
15 (Moderate)
11 (Fast)



Styx valley requires river crossings.

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A classic Arthurs Pass traverse, starting up the Waimakariri Valley, crossing the Southern Alps 3 times via Harman, Whitehorn and Browning Passes.

Should only be attempted during low-moderate river flows as the Waimakariri river must be crossed at least twice in its entirety to reach Carrington Hut, and the Styx river must be crossed at least 3 times.

The terrain is rough and wild, poles are advised for the Whitehorn glacier (useful for probing for any crevasses and for traction, microspikes not required), and the steep Browning Pass.

The route finishes at Lake Kaniere, so either organise a car shuttle or a taxi at the end. Start early!

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Features of interest

Multiple crossings of the Southern Alps, beautiful river valleys, wild west coast rivers

Make Up of Run

Untracked / Route only: 50%

Technical Single Track: 35%

Moderate Single Track: 15%

Route Data


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Wild Explorers

I did it!
  • Access

    O'Malleys Track, small carpark just before the Waimakariri bridge.
    Alternately, start on true left of river at Klondyke corner.

    Carpark for up to about 12 cars.

    109 km

    90 minutes



  • Staying Safe


    Some route finding required to find best route up Waimakariri river
    Tracks on west coast section can be tricky to locate, in particular ascent of Browning Pass, and descending to Harman Hut. Styx river valley has many washed out track sections which require hunting a route around.
    More route finding skills required than map navigation.


    Thermal leggings, Lightweight fleece top, 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 bag, Cellphone, Compass, Map, Headtorch and spare batteries.

    Plentiful throughout

    Best in summer. Possible in spring/autumn but requires low river levels.

    River crossings

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