This is a not a trip for bad weather. Do not attempt the route if the Otira River is unable to be forded.
If the Otira River is able to be forded, start from the Aickens car park, cross the stile and follow the fence line to the river. Ford the Otira River then aim for the orange triangle immediately opposite.
Follow the orange markers and track to Clear Creek. Cross Clear Creek to the 4WD access track and follow this to the sign-posted turn-off at Pfeifer Creek. From here follow the streambed of Pfeifer Creek for about 100 m to the start of the track on the true right. The track passes through red-beech forest to the confluence of Pfeifer Creek and the stream draining the lake. It crosses the stream and continues up the true left to the lake.
You can walk the route in 1 day but it is worth taking 2 days and camping next to the lake. There are several good spots along the lake edge and cairns mark where to leave the track to find these campsites.
The track to the Otehake River continues to the head of the lake then up a short climb to a saddle between the lake and the river. From there the track drops steeply into the Otehake and another good campsite. The route down the Otehake is mostly on the true right, boulder hopping beside the river, crossing where necessary. This is not possible in rain or if rivers are high. Ford the Otehake again just above where it joins the Taramakau and the walk down the river flats back to Otira River.
This trip starts at Aickens car park beside SH73, 5km west of Otira township. You need to ford Otira River to access the Taramakau Valley.
If the Otira River is not easy to ford, postpone your tramp until another day.
Know before you go
Before you go into the outdoors, tell someone your plans and leave a date to raise the alarm if you haven't returned. To do this, use the New Zealand Outdoors Intentions process on the AdventureSmart website. It is endorsed by New Zealand's search and rescue agencies and provides three simple options to tell someone you trust the details about your trip.
Topo Map: NZ Topo 50 Otira K33.
Experience: Suitable for well-equipped people with backcountry tramping experience. Rivercrossing and route finding skills are required.
Safety: Fine weather is required when crossing the Otira. Allow adequate time. \Check snow and weather conditions. Navigational skills and ability to judge weather and river conditions are essential. Be prepared to turn back if conditions are not safe.
Note: True right and true left refers to the sides of the valley when looking downstream.