Twin Creek and Barrack Creek

5th & 7th February 2021

Twin Creek and Barrack Creek in Arthur’s Pass National Park

Twin Creek v5a2III***

Bealey Valley,

Arthur’s Pass National Park


The start of the 70m abseil pitch. Mt Rolleston in the distance.


As you walk up to Temple Basin ski field in Arthur’s Pass National Park, the track takes you past a large waterfall on your right. On the Topomap it’s marked as 115m, but is in fact made up of three separate cascades of 70m, 35m, and 10m. That’s Twin Creek, and it has a fully-bolted canyoning descent starting from the footbridge at the ski field and ending at the highway on the valley floor. There’s a couple of jumps and downclimbs in the upper canyon, and about 16 abseil pitches ranging from 5m to 70m off that waterfall.

The tricky part of that one is that it transitions to free-hanging near the top, and the sharp edge needs protecting, so the first person down attaches a rope protector. Each successive person has to abseil to that point, tie themselves off, remove the protector and replace it above their attachment point, untie to abseil again, and pull the protector down again so it ends up back in the right place. I stuffed it up, accidentally descending slightly out of reach of the protector before I’d managed to position it over the edge. A bit of panic started to set in, as although I had the gear to re-ascend the rope, I really didn’t fancy trying to transition while dangling in space 50-odd metres above a shallow pool. Luckily in canyoning you set up the rope on a releasable anchor, and as I wasn’t the last person down, Gavin could let the rope out from the top while I abseiled the rest of the way. Crisis averted.

The route for Twin Creek. Red is the approach and blue is the canyon descent.

Barrack Creek v4a4III***

Otira Valley,

Arthur’s Pass National Park


Entering the upper section of Barrack Creek.


A couple of days later we went to tackle Barrack Creek, which emerges into the Otira Valley just where SH73 crosses at the bottom of the gorge. It was overcast and really gloomy looking up into the bottom of the canyon, and we had about a 6hr walk in, starting with a climb up through the bush. Luckily we emerged above the cloud at the bushline, and traversed our way across to the upper reaches of the stream.

The guidebook topo showed us where the technical descent was supposed to begin, but about a km upstream of that we were confronted by a series of about four unexpected cascades. One pitch had a single bolt, but the rest had no protection, so we resorted to meat anchors for all but the last person who had no choice but to jump.

Further into the canyon proper, it was a collection of jumps, downclimbs, and abseils, ending in a spectacular series of three back-to-back abseils totalling about 130m.

The route for Barrack Creek. Red is the approach and blue is the canyon descent.


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