Given transport issues getting back from Lake Kaniere we decided to go over Pope's pass and back out to SH73 and hitchhike back to the car. Trip done late summer 2022
Three passes is well described but I can't find any recent reports of Pope's pass - which was much harder than anticipated.
We approached from Park Morpeth hut, up the standard route to Browning lake. This ascent is steep, and only intermittently marked due to slips taking out the track and presumably the markers. Made it to the lake in around 2 hours.
From the lake, it's easy and quick going up a tussock flank of Mt Harman. Due to cliffs on the eastern side we were unable to get to Pope's pass directly (1585m), and continued up to the top of the ridge around 1800m, before descending. From the pass there is apparently a route through the bluffs towards the top of the pass, however we were unable to identify this from the above, with no markers or poles to help.
We then traveled from the 1800m ridge directly north and crossing below the Mt Harman snowfield, we were able to take the river at the base of this down to the upper Julia creek.
There is a significant and impassable waterfall on the Julia as it goes over some bluffs ~2km beyond the pass. As soon as the river starts to close in, head to the true left back onto scree to get around this.
The river was then dry for several km from here, with fast travel on medium sized boulders.
The track marked on the topo maps for the 2km approaching Julia hut was last cut in 2017 (as far as we could tell) and at this stage has been taken back by the westland jungle. The river at this level has re-emerged and with significant flow and moderate drop offs and gully sections. Expect to get wet up to waist level + significant bush bashing - the only remnants of the track are some visible chainsaw cuts on the surrounding trees. We lost the track on numerous occasions, and despite the short distance this section took us 2-3 hours, and would be extremely challenging/impassible in the dark or with high river flows.
From Julia, the travel is easy through to SH73 with well cut and maintained tracks. Total travel time from Park Morpeth to Mid Taipo hut took us 12 hours.
There is mining activity in the river at Dillion Homestead, and from here there a reasonable 4wd track (for high clearance vehicles) where we were picked up from the following day.