Key Info: Off track, camping, steep, scree, chamois, Piwauwau (rock wren), Kea.
In good weather it is recommended to head up via Greenstone Saddle, head past the lakes (also a suitable campsite in case everything turns to shit) and over the south saddle then drop down to the lake. There is reasonable camping just above the lake where you drop down. You can either return the same way or follow an easy ridge from the saddle which leads to the Routeburn track or you can sidle to the ridge after dropping down from the saddle (6-7 hours walk each way).
Head up the Routeburn track from the Divide and turn off at Lake Howden Hut up the Greenstone track. Continue until you reach the Howden Campsite at Greenstone Saddle where there is a large clearing and a toilet. At this point head up to the big flat plateau where there are a number of beautiful lakes and bogs. The beech forest is beautiful and not too difficult to get through. The lakes are a good lunch spot or camping spot in case the weather turns or something else doesn’t go to plan. They still have excellent views and are very picturesque. Continue along the plateau to the left of the impressive waterfall running down a big rock slab, aiming for the furthest left saddle along the ridge, there is a small amount of boulder hopping and generally steep slopes to get to the base of the saddle. Here there are some rock slabs and scree to climb up.
There are excellent views down the Hollyford and towards the Darrans as well as down over the route you came up. Descending down to Lake Roberts is also quite steep. Head to the right to cut below the twin peaks on the ridge and drop down onto a scree slope. You can avoid most of the scree by hugging the cliff face, then follow a bouldery slope down to the lake. There are Chamois, Kea and Piwauwau (rock wren) in this area . There is a suitable campsite on this side of the lake on a small ledge. The rest of the lake has slopes too steep for and unsuitable for camping however there is a 2-3 person rock bivvy near the lake outlet (would require some cleaning up but looks dry). The six Kea stayed away from the campsite and did not attempt to destroy or steal anything .
To get back either retrace your steps or head over to the ridge heading down from the ridge crossed via the south saddle. There may be a way to head down the ridge from the saddle but it is also possible to sidle to the right once down the steeper section of the saddle and reach the ridge by crossing over above a deep cut creek. This ridge is very easy going and leads to easy beech forest with a short section of fern to bash through before reaching the Routeburn track. This section may also contain tree nettle (five stings can kill a guinea pig) and small nettles depending on your exact route. This route is much easier than that from Greenstone Saddle with less elevation gain after leaving a formed track and easier beech forest and terrain in general.
(Updated 2013 - J.Vincent)
(Updated 2018 - C-L. Schloots)