Big Ben via Dry Acheron Stream, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park, Canterbury NZ

Good variety on this walk along the Dry Acheron Stream, then up steeply to the summit of Big Ben (1416m), with views of various hills & tall peaks, both near & far.

Big Ben via Dry Acheron Stream, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park

We first walked the Dry Acheron Track intending to climb Big Ben (1416m), but on that day there was low cloud and we turned back. A few weeks later after snowfall we thought we’d return and finish the job. Snow and clear blue skies added some variety to the grey skies of our first visit, and intense NW winds some adventure when on the upper reaches of the mountain. There’s great views from the slopes of Big Ben, including a jumble of topography towards Lake Coleridge, and a rather striking Mount Hutt Range popping out of the Canterbury Plains.

Track notes at the end, and you can also read my original post on the Dry Acheron Track.

Big Ben via Dry Acheron Stream: The Scenery

Big Ben via Dry Acheron Stream, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
Looking back at a snowy Mt Hutt as we walked across farmland to meet the Dry Acheron Stream.
Big Ben via Dry Acheron Stream, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
This section of the Dry Acheron Stream (near the start) was dry when we came here just a few weeks ago.

Big Ben via Dry Acheron Stream, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park

Big Ben via Dry Acheron Stream, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
Looking back at the Mount Hutt Range.
Big Ben via Dry Acheron Stream, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
Big Ben to the right.
Big Ben via Dry Acheron Stream, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
A strikingly orange rock.
Big Ben via Dry Acheron Stream, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
On our way up Big Ben. This first bit was very steep.
Big Ben via Dry Acheron Stream, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
The Dry Acheron Stream, and Mount Hutt Range at the back.
Big Ben via Dry Acheron Stream, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
The Dry Acheron Stream, and Mount Hutt Range at the back.
Big Ben via Dry Acheron Stream, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
Lumpy hills.

Big Ben via Dry Acheron Stream, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park

Big Ben via Dry Acheron Stream, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
Looking up the Dry Acheron Stream.
Big Ben via Dry Acheron Stream, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
Most of this snow was gone by time we descended.
Big Ben via Dry Acheron Stream, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
Looking towards Lake Coleridge and the Rakaia River.
Big Ben via Dry Acheron Stream, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
A jumble of topography looking towards Lake Coleridge.
Big Ben via Dry Acheron Stream, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
Looking towards Lake Coleridge and the Rakaia River.
Big Ben via Dry Acheron Stream, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
Getting up higher hear. The Mount Hutt Range at the back.
Big Ben via Dry Acheron Stream, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
One of NZ’s spikey alpine plants.
Big Ben via Dry Acheron Stream, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
The Mount Hutt Range, peaking at 2185m (Mt Hutt itself).
Big Ben via Dry Acheron Stream, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
Ice on the south side of the plants. I guess it was colder, and also sheltered from the prevailing (and often wild) north-west winds.
Big Ben via Dry Acheron Stream, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
Having not walked in winter much I was fascinated by the way ice formed on the flimsiest of blades of grass.
Big Ben via Dry Acheron Stream, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
Quite sparkly as we ascended towards the summit.

Big Ben via Dry Acheron Stream, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park

Big Ben via Dry Acheron Stream, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
Fabulous ice sculptures formed around blades of grass.
Big Ben via Dry Acheron Stream, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
I think the more distant peaks might be the Craigieburn Range.
Big Ben via Dry Acheron Stream, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
Near the summit here.

Here’s a video of the wild winds we encountered on the summit. Pretty funny actually…

Big Ben via Dry Acheron Stream, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
We had to drop down on the south side of the mountain for lunch to get out of the howling wind. Only snow to sit on so we ate standing up.
Big Ben via Dry Acheron Stream, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
Looking towards Lake Coleridge and the Rakaia River.
Big Ben via Dry Acheron Stream, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
The Mount Hutt Range
Big Ben via Dry Acheron Stream, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
Very interesting light as we descended Big Ben.
Big Ben via Dry Acheron Stream, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
Setting off back down the Dry Acheron Stream. The Mount Hutt Range in the distance.
Big Ben via Dry Acheron Stream, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
Walking down the Dr Acheron Stream in fading light.
Big Ben via Dry Acheron Stream, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
Looking back at Big Ben as the sun went down. We finished the walk well after dark. Not recommended unless you’ve been out this way before.


Track Notes

Big Ben via Dry Acheron Stream, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
Take the marked Dry Acheron Track to the foot of Big Ben, then climb up the steep poled route to the summit. No poles near the summit but just keep heading upwards.

You can get more information about the Dry Acheron Track on the DOC website, and of course in my original blog post. There is a small car park at the start, and you walk for a while next to pine trees through farmland to meet the stream. There are multiple crossings of the stream so plan for potentially wet feet depending on the depth. (Although we managed to keep our feet dry both times.)

Once the track leaves the stream you climb very steeply at first up Big Ben. The gradient then flattens for a while, then rises quite steeply again until near the summit, where the gradient eases once more. The route is poled until near the summit, but once the poles run out it’s pretty much just a case of climbing upwards. There’s a sign and cairn on the summit so you’ll know you’re there.

We had just bought hiking poles the day before, and used them for the first time on this walk. They ended up being very useful, at first for multiple crossings of the Dry Acheron Stream, which was deeper than on our first visit. Then we used them for the often very steep and on this day quite snowy ascent of Big Ben. It is actually quite a long walk: about 1000m ascent and descent over ~15km, so set off early in winter otherwise you’ll end in darkness like we did!

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

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