Scott-Kay-Fraser-Emily Creeks   

This is a fine three-day tramp at the head of Lake Wakatipu that traverses four valleys and crosses two passes. The south side of Fraser col has (possibly hard) snow until well into summer, and the descent of Emily creek requires care. The Kay Creek hut, formerly derelict, was renovated in April 2016.
Caples-Kay-Scott makes a shorter (and easier) alternative.


Time Total Refs Comments
Routeburn road

3km from turn off; 6km from end
To Scott basin 3h
MN p.33 Marked track to bushline.
To pass to Kay creek 2h 5h
MN p.33 Easy tussock
To bush line in Kay creek 2h 7h MN p.33 Steep, but easy gulley; then follow stream.
To the Caples valley 3h 10h MN p.32 Marked track
To the bush line in Fraser creek 5h 15h MN p.32 Marked track
To Fraser Col 3h 18h MN p.59 Creek; scree; snow
To the Routeburn track 3h 21h MN p.59 Easy to basin; steep descent of creek
To the Routeburn road 2h 23h MN p.59 Gravelled miniroad
MN = Moir's Guide North 2005 (available from DOC).
Blue text and thumbnails are links


NZ1215 NZ1506 NZ1507 NZ1513 NZ1514
Fraser and Kay Scott valley Scott valley Earnslaw Kay head
NZ1517 NZ1520 NZ1525 NZ1528 NZ1529
Up Kay creek Fraser valley Emily peak Fraser col Fraser head
NZ1532 NZ1189 NZ0117 NZ0111 NZ1534
Toward col Fraser valley Emily gulley Somnus Yuk!


The Scott creek track starts at the Routeburn road, about about 3km from the turn off from the Kinloch road, and is well-marked. The tracks in Scott, Kay, and Fraser creeks were all well-marked and in good condition in December 2010 except for some tree falls. Ascend the Scott creek track to the bushline, and then roughly follow the main stream to the pass to Kay creek. There are small camp sites at the end of the track, on the pass (exposed), and in between.

From the pass cross the main creek and begin the descent to the Kay valley on a spur about 100m to the true right of where the creek descends in waterfalls. Soon find a steep, but easy, tussock gulley on the right. Follow it, and exit it right onto easy slopes leading down to valley floor. This is the only easy route through the cliffs at the head of the Kay valley.

Descend the creek to a flat with a yellow marker not far above the bushline (camp sites). From the marker, bash through the scrub on the true right of the stream. Soon find a marker near the hut (fairly derelict). Now follow the marked track down to the Caples valley (good camp sites).

From the Caples valley, follow the marked track up the beautiful Fraser valley. There are many possible camp sites on flats. At the bushline, the track ends and, as the subalpine scrub is impenetrable, you have no choice but to walk up the stream (clambering over small falls...) until you are below the Fraser col (1540m). Climb fairly steep tussock, scree, and snow to the pass (in early December 2010, I was able to crampon all the way from 1300m).

The descent into Emily basin is on easy snowgrass. From Emily basin, pick up a line of cairns that leads left at about 1230m to a small track that takes you to the true left branch of Emily creek. This branch of Emily creek is easy to ascend, even in running shoes, because it easy to see the way past the obstacles in the creek. The descent is more difficult. It is possible to follow the creek bed the whole way, but I've found it more convenient to use the vegetation on the true right to avoid the top section, and then slide down thick vegetation on the true left to avoid the next section. The rest of the descent of the creek bed is more straightforward. When just above the bridge, exit the creek bed on the right through giant man-eating ferns to reach the Routeburn track. Follow the track down to its start, which is 6km by road from the start of the Scott creek track.

Suggestion: Day 1, camp near the Scott/Kay saddle or near the first marker in Kay creek. Day 2, camp in Fraser creek at the highest possible flat. Day 3, exit over Fraser col to the Routeburn. Since it is easier to ascend Emily creek than descend it, it may be better to do this in reverse.

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