Last Updated: 21st Sep 2023

Very Experienced

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I've done it Done

Ailsa - Humboldt Circuit

Glenorchy, Otago

Submitted by James Harcombe

Last Updated: 21st Sep 2023

Very Experienced

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I've done it Done


Grunt Factor: 136 ?

Gnarl Factor: 73 ?








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Trail Map

Type of Run

Back country - remote



Native bush



Open farmlands

Open tussock/grasslands

Open ridges/tops

Run Makeup


Gravel Road

Easy Single Track

Moderate Single Track

Technical Single Track

Untracked / Route only

Average Uphill Gradient: +10.7%

Average Downhill Gradient: -9.5%


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Estimated Times to Run







From the Routeburn Shelter, start running back down the access road, past the Routeburn Station Homestead as far as Scott Creek. Follow the Scott Creek route all the way to Scott Basin, taking care not to go left at the first creek (topo map and compass recommended!). Once in the Basin, head left along the creek. At the watershed between Scott basin and Kay Creek, it's possible to either head into Death Valley over the col, or directly to Kay Creek Hut. The direct route is given on the GPX file, but it's the least preferable, as the descent is extremely steep, slippery and full of bluffs. Once at Kay Creek Hut, follow the orange markers down the valley to join up with the Caples Track. Turn right and head over McKellar saddle into the Greenstone. On joining the Greenstone, turn right towards Howden Hut. Complete the Loop via the Routeburn Track.

Plenty of Beech and Alpine flora and fauna, though you won't have much time to take it in if you want to finish in daylight!

Large safe parking area.

25 km

28 minutes



Very hard.

The route up Scott Creek is often overgrown. To pick up the orange markers from the first stile, head for the large clump of steep bracken that's closest to the creek. Reasonable map reading skills are required to make it through to Death Valley. If you are unsure, don't try this route (the clue is in the name!). The track from Kay Creek Hut is well marked with orange triangles and follows the true right of the river.


Waterproof leggings, Thermal leggings, Lightweight fleece top, Short-sleeved thermal top, Long-sleeved thermal top, Seam-sealed waterproof jacket, Windproof 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, Crampons / microspikes (for winter conditions), Gaiters

Plenty of water all along this route!

Not to be attempted after heavy rain (river crossings involved) or after heavy snow (avalanche danger). Not advisable from after the first Winter snow, till the time it melts!

See above.

Kinloch Lodge
Kinloch, Glenorchy
Great selection of beer. Friendly welcoming staff, and a spa bath if you stay the night!

You and Ailsa - Humboldt Circuit

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Trail Reviews

This was such a great loop! We started late in the day and stayed at Kay Creek hut. We went via Death Valley which was stunning, and easy travel - there’s a bit of a cut route through the scrub in the head of Kay Creek too. Both the Scott’s Creek and Kay Creek tracks have loads of windfall so are slow going - very little running. It took us five hours to Kay Creek hut. Once you meet the Caples though it’s smooth beautiful runnable trail all the way back - 8hrs from Kay Creek hut to the Routeburn car park. My first time running with overnight gear, and what a way to start!!

Katie Smith

April 13, 2023

A much more interesting way to see the Routeburn. There is a nice ramp through the bluffs into Kay Creek, but make sure to follow the GPX file & the cairns for this section as they take you to the top of the ramp on the true right of the creek. It can also be broken up into 2 days quite nicely with an overnight at Lake MacKenzie Hut/Campsite or Greenstone Saddle Campsite.

Nelson Pearson

March 18, 2021

What an incredible circuit through these ranges! Couldnt have asked for a better day out. Completed this on Dec. 18th, 2019. Given the conditions I saw on the col to Death Valley, the direct descent to Kay Creek was the only reasonable option, and proved more straight forward than Id anticipated. The rest of the Kay Creek descent required some ingenuity, and a lot of the time crossing thru the creek! Some no-nonsense crossings farther down due to the high water. All in all this is a spectacular day in the Ailsa and Humboldt ranges that has a little bit of everything. If you are keen, Do it! I would suggest that the time to run is a liberal estimate, and can definitely be shortened depending on your competence through the Scott/Kay creek sections. I am by no-ones definition an elite runner and was able to complete the loop in just about 11hrs. Go get after it!!!

Wyatt Stevens

December 21, 2019

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