Cross Otehake River from L. Kaurapataka side to the more downstream of 2 large orange triangles on the opposite bank. Behind this more downsteam orange triangle there is a small clearing leading to a leaning tree with markers indicating the start of the track to Big Tops hut. Traverse 100m of gloomy forested flats via a recently recut track marked with red permolats. (the track that runs upstream along the bank only leads to where the true right side of the swingbridge used to be - it is now removed). A large tree is marked and indicates the start of a steep ascent diagonally from left to right thru rata forest to a rocky spur adorned with kidney fern.
Here the track climbs a few meters then traverses briefly from right to left and resumes its climb to less steep terrain and forest with more undergrowth. The track is reasonable to follow with attention. 2 scenic knolls are encountered. Around here is the only water, a small tadpoled pond in a boggy area just off to the left of the track. After maybe an hour, the track eventually reaches a saddle and descends 50m into this. Here it is mossy but has no pooling of water.
The track resumes climbing with occasional sidling. At one point it briefly sidles steep ground mitigated by recent slipping and windfall. 3 small outcrops of bluff are met, the middle section being 20 minute rock and the final bluff 5 minute rock indicating the time to reach the open scrub respectively. The surrounding forest is reasonably open and attractive with successive zones of rata and podocarps. From the saddle to the open scrubbed area would take another hour at most.
Where the track becomes open, there is a large cairn and a stone arrow showing the way to go along a small horizontal spur. There is a great view of L.Kaurapataka and Mt Pfeifer. Unfortunately the small tarn here mysteriously drained a few years ago. Follow the sparsely marked track on this reasonably flat section with occasional cairns to travel uphill initially on a rocky scrubby section, across scrub on to pink stable talus, and the last section through scrub to open short tussock.
Travel south along the fault scarp parallel to tarns. This scarp is bisected by scree flowing from point 1656. This section will take no longer than an hour to do.
From the saddle descend a delightful herbaceous fellfield to herbs interspersed with tussock passing a small outcrop on the left. Cairns have been built to assist you in selecting the right line of descent. A narrow stable talus field with black and orange lichen is crossed then a narrow fine scree is reached. Descend this scree and then you have the option of further travel either down a scree on the right or a very pretty parallel gully with feathery tutu (toot). The gully narrows and trickles with a small stream, becomes rocky with lichen-bearing green boulders, then dark schist bedrock is encountered. Here the first beech trees begin. At this narrow point a track (marked with a white standard) leads from the true left sidling to the head of a parallel narrow gully which bypasses the waterfall section.
The start of this new gully is steep for the first 4 meters. An ancient pink dotted handkerchief is tied onto tree daisy here. The descent is straightforward to a section of small but open beech regen down an obvious track but the gully again narrows and darkens. Markers then lead you back into the original gully below the waterfall. This gully is choked with treefall which is currently navigable from clearing efforts by me and Frank but always subject to further obstructions.
A cairn on the true left is eventually sighted indicating the point where the gully is departed from - to travel down through open mossy forest.The gully descent section takes about an hour to do.
From here you can follow a permolatted track which will take you to the orchard, a open clearing amid Ribbonwood after 20 minutes. Markers then assist in reaching a narrow trail initially through thistle (alas) and mountain holly and fuchsia that brings you suddenly to the rear side of the hut.