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Tramping: Upper Wairau

Last Modified: 21-2-2019 6:45

Access to much of the upper Wairau requires passing through Rainbow Station
Access to much of the upper Wairau requires passing through Rainbow Station

This upper Wairau valley is accessed via the road to Rainbow skifield which turns off State Highway near the top of of its climb up to St Arnaud. It's handy to have a shovel in the car as washouts are not uncommon. At Six Mile Creek there is a locked gate. Although most of the road was constructed for maintenance of Trnspower's transmission lines, the lessee of Rainbow Station controls access to the upper valley. He requires a fee for the key to the gate. Before Six Mile Creek is reached there is an Air Force camp. There are numerous creeks and tarns to explore and unnamed mountains to climb. The bushline of small mountain beech trees is nearly impassable in places. With the right contacts you may be able to get the key to the Rainbow Skifield road in the off season. A climb across the ski basin to Arnst Basin with its tarns and alpine vegetation gives a good view of the Travers Valley.

Beyond the gate on the left is the track to Lees Creek. An exhilarating walk on the suspension bridge above the Hamilton Rapids is the start of a well marked track to a beautiful valley. A couple of hours walking sees you in grassy flats backed by forested mountains. The DOC hut would be useful for those contemplating trips up/over high saddles to the Branch River or Judges Creek.

Further up the road is St Ronan's Well. It's possible to get up on to the ridge of the St Arnaud Range from here. As one proceeds south the mountains on the St Arnaud Range become more interesting and more challenging.

Hamilton Creek. A sometimes ill-defined track but easy walking leads up this attractive side valley to an 1800m saddle and over to the Begley River. From the saddle scramble up a rocky spur to ChittendenPeak 2194m. This requires alpine skills in winter and spring.

Judges Creek is an open grassy valley with a parklike appearance.

The Rainbow River runs through an elevated wide grassy basin. To the south Mt Iris, 2118m, is prominent. Climb up the steep creek which runs north in a gully from near the summit. Beware of stonefall. From the col looking over into Tanekaha Stream the summit is reached by a short but tricky rock climb to the east. Climbers' Friends could be useful. The cliffs at the head of Tanekaha Stream are even more impressive than the north face of the mountain.

The forested Begley River has a DOC hut and leads to a saddle into the Hamilton (q.v.). Also accessible are Cotterell Peak 2095m, and Kehu Peak 2210m which are quite demanding at the best of times. Begley Saddle 1800m, and Rainbow Pass 1980m, steep on the Rainbow side, lead to the upper Travers. They can be treacherously icy even in summer.

The Paske River offers a walk over pleasant tussock terraces to a DOC hut. This is a good base for climbs of Mt Paske 2232m and Belvedere Peak 2107m. Paske Saddle is a route to the Clarence and Lake Tennyson.

For access to Rainbow Station contact PL or AM Graham, Rainbow Station, St Arnaud. Phone 03 521 1838

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