Avalanche Peak Circuit, Arthur’s Pass National Park NZ
Fabulous scenery on this classic and somewhat adventurous walk in Arthur’s Pass National Park.
The excellent but somewhat notorious routes to the summit of Avalanche Peak attract many hikers of various abilities, and have killed 11 of them apparently. Nevertheless, both routes to the summit are marked, and the views are just fabulous, especially after a bit of snow. This was our first time in Arthur’s Pass National Park and it exceeded already high expectations, with pleasingly steep and rugged tracks up through beautiful beech forest, then epic views of mountains, ridges and valleys in all directions. The opportunity to make this a circuit walk adds to the appeal.
You should take safety preparations seriously, but experienced hikers will be fine in good conditions. (Best avoid low cloud, heavy snow, and high winds). We walked it mid-week, but there were still quite a few hikers on the mountain. I imagine this walk gets pretty busy on the weekends, but if that’s the only time you can go it will still be worth it.
Track notes at the end, and I have linked to useful websites for assessing the weather and current conditions on the mountain.
Avalanche Peak Circuit: The Scenery
Pictures now taken on the summit…
They recommend hiking up the Avalanche Peak Track/Route and down the Scotts Route/Track, and this is what we did. The final ascent up the Avalanche Peak Track to where it meets the Scotts Track is quite steep and there was lots of snow when we did it. The short and rocky ridge to the summit has steep drop offs both sides but it felt fine, and I’m not all that comfortable with heights. It definitely helped doing it in fine and calm weather. The Avalanche Peak Track starts over the road from the visitor centre, just a short walk over a lawn area and along a gravel track. It’s a very steep climb through the forest that requires a bit of scrambling. You have to walk back along the road from the end of the Scotts Track.
There’s plenty of information on this track on the DOC website and on the Arthur’s Pass website, including mention of people dying on the mountain. These would probably be some of the less lucky of those people who decide to climb it in sneakers after snow, like we saw. Otherwise you are unlikely to get into trouble in good weather if you are well equipped and somewhat experienced. There is avalanche risk in winter and early spring, and you could certainly slip and fall in snowy or icy conditions. You could also get blown off the final ridge to the summit in high winds. The Arthur’s Pass website has info on weather and snow/ice conditions, and the Met Service has a section dedicated to the often wild and woolly weather in Arthur’s Pass National Park, including for Avalanche Peak specifically.
Having said all that, we had a great time and the only moment I was in danger was in the very final two to three metres of the Scotts Track, which I basically slipped down, luckily managing to stay on my feet. Just goes to show you can get into trouble hiking at any time if you lose your concentration.