Rock Burn to North Routeburn via Lake Nerine   

A fine three day trip at the head of Lake Wakatipu. Caution: There is steep snow grass above Park Pass, serious route finding between Park Pass and North Col, and the descent from North Col is partly on snow.

Time Total Refs Comments
a Sugarloaf pass 1154m 2h 2h MN p45 Good track
b Theatre flat 4h 6h MN p46 Good track
c Park pass 1178m 3h 9h MN p47 Flats and track
d Lake Nerine 3h 12h MN p48 Moderate to steep snow grass; some clambering on rocks
e North Col 1589m 2h 14h MN p46 Some clambering on rocks
f Routeburn Flats 5h 19h MN p46 Snow, scrub, and (eventually) a track
g Routeburn Car Park 2h 21h Gravelled miniroad
MN = Moir's Guide North (2005) (available from DOC).
Blue text and thumbnails are links


(07.12.15) The bridge over the Rock Burn below Theatre Flat is in a very dangerous state. It may be possible to bypass the bridge by fording the Rock Burn at one of the flats lower down and bushwacking on the true-left or by continuing to Theatre flat on the true-right and fording there.


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Pluto Rock Burn Theatre Flat Rock Burn Rock Burn
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Poseidon Pk Route Poseidon Pk Poseidon Pk Lake Nerine
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Lake Nerine Lake Nerine Darrans Tutoko


a. About 15 minutes up the Routeburn track, a track leads off to the right with a sign "This is not the Routeburn track." Follow it to Sugar Loaf Pass. The track is good, except a bit muddy near the top.

b. The track is good, and well-marked, except a bit muddy in a couple of places. An oddly placed marker seems to suggest you climb over a difficult boulder: in fact, you either squeeze through the gap between the two boulders, or walk around the boulder by the Rock Burn. Besides the excellent camping at Theatre Flat, there are a few other campsites near the Rock Burn.

c. If you stay on the track, you pass a large rock at about 1020m with shelter only on one side (not for bivvying in bad weather).

d. I followed the ridge south to a large cairn, and then a followed a small track that traversed on the left of the ridge. Then I climbed up moderate to steep snow grass to about 1500m, when it became easy to traverse around a little above a tarn and a small lake. Crossed over to Lake Nerine without difficulty. Some snow. Camping possible at Lake Nerine (but not a good place to get out of in a bad weather).

e. I crossed the ridge west of Lake Nerine, and then clambered over boulders until I could see Pt 1444. Then descended to shelf passing above it. There were some campsites here, but no water except for a small tarn. Then I traversed along the shelf without gaining much altitude until I reached the gulley leading to North Col.  It is doubtful that the "shortcut" straight across would save time since you would have to spend a lot of effort dodging small bluffs.  There is a small campsite on the Col.

f. From the col, the Routeburn looks deceptively close. I was able to stay mostly on the snow (iceaxe useful) for the first 240m of the descent (late January). About 2/3 down the gulley, be sure to stay on the true right to avoid the bluffs on the true left. The scrub in the North Routeburn is impenetrable. At about the 1000m level, there are some small cairns on the true left marking an easy crossing of the creek. From here to the flats, stay on the true left, walking in the creek bed where possible, and finding small tracks where it isn't. About 900m there is a large cairn marking a track through the scrub. Towards the bottom of the flats pick up cairns and a good track, and then orange markers, leading down to the Routeburn Flats. Excellent camping on the flats towards the bottom of the North Branch (stay 500m from the Routeburn track).

g. Boring track.

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Copyright © 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 J.S. Milne.