At 2208 m high, the summit provides commanding views across the alps, Adams Wilderness Area, the coastline and the flats in between. The route from Little Man River (Dry Creek) up to the bush edge on Mt Adams was re-opened in 2009. The route is well marked and windfalls are cleared every two years.
State Highway 6 - bush edge
Time: 5 hr
Tramper descending from Mt Adams
Follow the farm track upstream for approximately 1 km before dropping down into the riverbed. The route crosses and re-crosses the river several times as you boulder-hop upstream. Orange markers have been placed on the true left where you enter and exit bush sections – however storms and floods may alter the route up the river bed and you will have to pick the best crossing places on the day.
The valley soon becomes confined by steep hillsides and after approximately 2 hr you will reach the second major tributary joining the main river on the true right. At this point the main river cuts sharply back on itself and into a tight gorge. Look for the large orange triangle marking the route entrance into the forest on the true right, around 50 m up from the confluence. This is the last creek so make sure you have enough water with you to last until you reach the snowline and beyond.
The route climbs very steeply up tree-root-covered ground to the crest of a spur about 20 min into the forest.
As you continue to climb the forest progressively gets more stunted and eventually you are moving through subalpine scrub. After climbing steadily for approximately 3 hr you will pop out onto a sloping tussock-covered ridgeline. Further up the ridge there are several good locations to camp – between approximately 1545 m and 2100 m.
The marked route ends just past the bush line at the two yellow and orange deer posts. Travel beyond this point is suitable only for mountaineers and those experienced in alpine travel. You must take a map, compass and alpine equipment, and know how to use them.
Access to the Mt Adams Route is approximately 10 km north of Whataroa on the northern side of the Little Man River (Dry Creek) bridge. A short farm track leads off State Highway 6 in towards the mountains and your vehicle can be parked near the first gate (be careful not to block the farm access).
Nature and conservation
Mount Adams sits proudly on the edge of the Adams Wilderness Area in the Southern Alps/Kā Tiritiri o te Moana.
Adams Wilderness Area
The Adams Wilderness Area was gazetted in 2003 and covers some 46,587 hectares of public conservation land in the central Southern Alps/Kā Tiritiri o Te Moana. The core of the area consists of the vast névés of the Garden of Eden and the Garden of Allah, which drain to the Wanganui and Perth rivers. Quirky and interesting place and feature names abound in the wilderness area, inspiring adventure and exploration.
The area comprises some of the most complex mountain country in the Southern Alps/Kā Tiritiri o Te Moana making it a challenging climbing and ski-touring environment. Parties have to negotiate a maze of gorges, ice falls, glaciers and dense subalpine scrub, not to mention the changeable weather.
Over the last few thousand years glacial advance and retreat has been largely responsible for the modification of the landscape where massive rivers of ice have carved out steep-sided valleys, leaving a series of cirques and hanging valleys along the dividing ranges.
The composition of flora in the wilderness area is influenced not only by differences in the environment and climate, but also because of its history of glaciation – the main consequence being the absence of beech species throughout. The vegetation varies from tall forest in the low-altitude river valleys to grasslands and herb fields at high altitudes. Common forest species include rimu, miro, kāmahi, broadleaf, southern rātā and Hall’s tötara.
Know before you go
- Check the latest conditions at the Westland Tai Poutini National Park Visitor Centre in Franz Josef before leaving - conditions can change rapidly.
- Carry a personal locator beacon.
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.
Note: True left and true right refer to the side of the valley or river when facing and looking downstream.
Experience and conditions
This route is suitable for well-equipped and experienced backcountry trampers and climbers only.
The time given is a guide only and will vary greatly with fitness and weather conditions. Tramping in this area is very demanding and you should allow plenty of time to reach your planned destination.
Summer and autumn
NZTopo50: BW16 Whataroa, BW17 Harihari
- Flooded rivers, rockfall and avalanche.
- This trip should not be attempted when it is raining, rain is forecast or the river is running high.
- If you are travelling beyond the snowline then make sure you check avalanche conditions, are sufficiently equipped and experienced to assess the conditions and choose a safe path through avalanche terrain.