Before attempting this tramp, you need to get permission from the owners of the Dingleburn Station. The Doc Wanaka office can help you with the contact details.
We set off from Oamaru very early on the Monday morning, planning to make a start at tramping by 10.00am. Had to change vehicles in Wanaka in order to have a 4 wheeldrive as the road down the side of Lake Hawea is fairly rough in places. We drove to within about an hours tramp of the Dingleburn Station, where I got dropped off. The road gets a bit scary past that. I headed off in reasonable weather, although knew the forecast was for some heavy rain later that day. It took me just over an hour to reach the station, where a kindly farm hand pointed me in the right direction, which was just as well as there is no signs anywhere.
He suggested the quickest way to the first hut (Bush Hut) was to follow the river, apparently much quicker and you can see the hut from below. After following the track for a bit, I started to follow the river for about half an hour and after a couple of tricky bluff scrambles, decided to turn around and continue on the high water route. The river obviously gets a lot lower at times, as there was no way to continue at the current level.
The high water route is somewhat steep with typically lots of ups and downs. I eventually made it to the hut just as the rain really set in. Looking at its position, you would have to look hard to see it from the river. I had my GPS programmed in with the coordinates so would have known its approximate whereabouts.
Bush Hut is in a beautiful small clearing with 6 bunks. Well appointed Hut! By my lonesome though!
The next day saw fine weather with typically very wet bush. The track to Cotters Hut was meant to take 4 hours. Be very aware of this tracks as it is not well maintained, with lots of tree fall and easy to loose the markers.
At one place, about and hour or so from the hut, you come across a huge slip. The track disappears completely. The markers strangely point down a very steep clay spur to the river and then disappear. The slip cannot be crossed, so had no choice but to drop to the river. Quite a difficult drop. Be very careful where you go down as you can easily get bluffed!
After crossing the swollen river twice, once swept off my feet, I studied the maps and decided to climb until I hopefully cut the track again. Fortunately I did. If coming from the Ahuriri end, I suggest the reverse route. The clay spur is obvious on the Hawea side of the slip, just keep close to the slip and you will come across a marker at the top. It will seem in a strange place.
It was slow going and took me about 5 and a half hours to get to Cotters Hut. This is a fabulous 2 bunk Hut with great views. Positions well above the river. You would not see this hut from the River.
Reading the hut book, some had turned around at the slip and in one case tried going over the top. He did not recommend this route, very dangerous!
Had planned to be at Cotters on the first day but there was no way as conditions were challenging.
Next day was just as nice, headed up the valley to the Top Dingle and over the saddle to the Ahuriri Base Hut.
This part of the track is not marked until you start climbing ovr the saddle from the Top Dingle but you can find your way easily enough. Took just over two and a half hours to the Top Dingle Hut and just over two hours to climb over the pass to the Ahiriri Base Hut.
I was planning to head on to Lake Ohau via Snowy Creek and the Maitland hut but the river was well up after over night rain and I was already a day behind, so walked to Birchwood Station. There is also a DOC building there. Not manned but sometimes there is someone there.
Rang for a pick up, but also managed to hitch a ride to Omarama with some kind campervan tourists.
This is a challenging tramp and only recommnded for those with experience and a good level of fitness.