Last Updated: 10th Nov 2023

Intermediate - Experienced

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I've done it Done

Three Passes

Hokitika, Canterbury

Submitted by Alastair McDowell

Last Updated: 10th Nov 2023

Intermediate - Experienced

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I've done it Done

Notice More info

Grunt Factor: 112 ?

Gnarl Factor: 84 ?

55.0km

2140m

2680m

1753m

  

  

  

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Trail Map

Type of Run

Back country - remote

Point to Point (one way)

Very hilly

Native bush

Riverside

Open tussock/grasslands

Open ridges/tops

Run Makeup

15%
35%
50%

Moderate Single Track

Technical Single Track

Untracked / Route only

Average Uphill Gradient: +7.4%

Average Downhill Gradient: -9.2%

Trailhead

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Estimated Times to Run

Not suitable

Slow

15:00

Moderate

11

Fast

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!

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

If you know of any public toilets near the trail start or on the route, please login and then let us know so we can update this section.

Carpark for up to about 12 cars.

109 km

90 minutes

Unknown

No

Moderate.

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.

Non-existent.

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

You and Three Passes

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Trail Reviews

This is a fantastic run.

A few tips:

West to East is my preference, because even though there is an additional 600m elevation in this direction, you get the more challenging Styx Valley out of the way first, in daylight and if you end up out of daylight then travel after Carrington Hut down the Waimak is relatively straightforward. Route finding on the Styx in the dark would be much more of a challenge.

Although the Styx Route is officially closed, in normal flows it presents no issues. There are a lot of washouts, so just make your way upstream and take advantage of trails on the banks as you come across them. The frequency of these increases further upstream. It is quicker to continue up the river than go via Mid Styx hut. From just before Grassy Flat Hut onwards the trail is easy to follow.

The Styx travel is a bit slow, and aside from some boggy sections around Styx saddle, it is easy going until Harman Hut.

From Harman Hut, it's a grunt up to Browning Pass, but it's mostly poled and easy to follow. The top of Browning Pass down to Park Morpeth is very steep - take care, and when you feel comfortable, just follow the scree down to the Wilberforce and follow it on the true left until you reach Park Morpeth Hut.

The climb up to Whitehorn Pass is very slow going, with lots of big boulders to negotiate. The last section is a grunt. Once at the pass, head down the permanent snow - poles are very useful here. Stay clear of the edges - jump on and off the snow and rocks depending on what is easiest. This section is short, and then the valley opens up to reach the beautiful Harman Pass after lots of negiotiating rocks. From here, there is a bit of slow travel through the gorge before it opens out at the White River. Cross this and after a short section of trail on the true right, you'll reach Carrington Hut. From here, it's straightforward runnable travel on the river flats out to Klondyke Corner.

Daniel Parkinson

January 19, 2022

PLB should be considered compulsory gear for this along with proper Shell's not flimsy lightweight ones. There are no bail out options and support is hours away.

15 Hours would be equivalent of say a 7.30 Kepler for the same distance and climb. When we did this we had to cross the Styx in marginal conditions in the dark using support methods and scrambling on bluffs. I would consider a west/east trip as a safer exit from Carrington in the dark

Matt Bixley

January 19, 2022

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Overlapping Trails

These overlap with this trail to some degree. You may wish to combine them but please note that to qualify for FKTs on these runs you should record a separate activity for each.

Browning Pass - Southern Alps Crossing

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Length: 53.5km

Level: Intermediate - Experienced

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