There’s nothing more satisfying for me than climbing a mountain to epic views, then making it down in time for a nice dinner and indoor plumbing. (Yes I’m a princess). Here in Canterbury New Zealand there are many opportunities for such walks. But for an added sense of achievement and adventure, I like to stretch myself and climb a 2000m high peak from the bottom. There are limited opportunities for summitting a 2000m peak in a day due to the often long distances involved, however I’ve managed a few since coming to live in Canterbury, and always have one or two on the to-do list.
For now I’ll share the peaks I’ve done, and then add to this list as I do more. Just click on the title or picture to open my original blog post on each walk.
The climb: ~ 1650m over 31km (return)
At 2333m, Mt Taylor is the Big Daddy of the Canterbury Foothills, and climbing it makes for an excellent if rather long day out. It’s a pretty barren mountain, and the 10km approach across flat plains means you’ve done a good sized walk even before you start climbing. But there’s a real sense of adventure as you set off up the rugged Swin River South Branch, then climb up through tussock and scree to the summit.
There’s a hut at the base of the mountain if you want to make this an overnighter, which might be necessary in the shorter days around winter.
The climb: ~ 1600m over 11km (return)
I think Mt Potts was my favourite of the 2000m high peaks I did in my first year living in NZ. It’s a fairly steady climb to the top, with great views all the way from the bottom, and then the best views of the day from the summit. We made a circuit of it, and the route back along an old ski field road was easygoing and yet still atmospheric. I also think doing this in spring helped, as a bit of snow on the tops made it all the more scenic.
The climb: ~1200m over 20km
One of the more challenging peaks I’ve climbed to date, there’s a few options to get to the summit of Mt Princess but they all involve steep terrain or rocky ridges, and almost certainly some scrambling. The reward will be really excellent 360 degree views, including of Princess Bath, the cirque lake nestled immediately below the summit. Easily accessed from Hanmer Springs this mountain is in the very north of Canterbury.
The climb: 1850m over 24km
Climbing Black Hill (2067m) in Hakatere Conservation Park is a long but spectacular walk. Views are of the Rakaia, Wilberforce and Mathias Rivers, plus countless mountains in all directions. A real classic, especially in mid-winter when I did it.
Mt Sinclair 2065m
The climb: 1600m over 16km
This walk is scenic enough to attract tourists in helicopters, at least to the tarn at 1600m on the way up. You won’t be disappointed with the views from the summit either, which take in countless high peaks to the north especially, including the Two Thumb Range to the NW. It’s a challenging route in places depending on the conditions, so consult my track notes before going.
The climb: ~ 1350m over 12km (return)
This was my first time to climb a 2000 metre high peak from the bottom, the bottom being at 760m in this case. Despite these numbers it is a fairly straightforward climb up Long Spur to the summit of Mt Cloudsley (2107m), the second highest peak in the Craigieburn Range. I would rate this as one of the easiest of the walks in this compilation.
It made for a great winter walk after some fresh snow, with views along the Craigieburn Range and over to the Torlesse Range. And from the summit, views south-west over a jumble of topography around Lake Coleridge, and north-west towards numerous peaks in the Southern Alps.
The climb: ~ 1600m over 20km (return)
Climbing Godley Peak (2087m) offers a fairly remote walking experience in a long day-hike. And you can bag a second high summit, Moorehouse Peak (2025m), for just another kilometre of walking. The patchwork of colourful pink scree and golden tussock of the surrounding slopes is very attractive if you like that sort of thing. There are views of the Rakaia Valley for almost the whole walk, and there are higher peaks in the Main Divide not too far away.
Some bush bashing required on this walk early on, but nice open travel afterwards.
The climb: ~1200m over 10km (return)
Mt Cheeseman was our second 2000m peak in the Craigieburn Range. The first, Mt Cloudsley, was our first 2000m peak in NZ. There are fabulous views from the summit, including the impressive Mt Olympus (2094m), and peaks in every direction. There are also a couple of small tarns along the way, which add to the alpine feels. Most of the route is off track through sometimes rugged terrain, but still is one of the more accessible peaks in this list.
Mt Enys 2194m, Mt Cloudsley 2107m & Carn Brea 2090m
The climb: ~2150m* over 20km (return)
My second time up Mt Cloudsley, but this time I continued along the tops to Mt Enys (2194m) for spectacular views, particularly to the west. You bag three peaks over 2000m on this walk – Carn Brea (2090m) is the other one, and not much extra effort to climb this as it’s on the way down. Quite a physical challenge this walk.
(*A number I saw online (twice), which I nevertheless think is a bit of an overestimate. But it is a big walk.)
The climb: 2500m over 20km (return)
I’d wanted to climb the iconic peak of Mt Hutt since coming to live in Christchurch in 2020. Three years later I finally made it up. This long route over Steepface Hill is a pretty big day out, but you’ll be rewarded with great views all day, and surely some bragging rights for the 2500m change in elevation alone.
The climb: ~1200m over 12 km (return)
One of multiple 2000m high peaks in the Craigieburn Range. The route to the top of Mt Izard is reasonably straightforward, and offers excellent views of many peaks including Mt Cheeseman, another peak in this list. (There are also views of Mt Cloudsley, also in this list, but it’s less interesting to look at). This walk will be reasonably safe as a winter or early spring option because it’s pretty much just up one spur to the summit.
The climb: ~1600m over 23km
There’s at least two or three ways up Mt Catherine, but this route, although a bit long, is mostly on a ridge and so maximises views. (I had gone part way up from the west in winter – see that post here). The views are excellent in all directions, and on your way down you can choose scenic alternatives for a bit of variety.
The climb: ~1400m over 14km
Wide open views over Central Otago and the Waitaki Valley on this circuit walk up to Kohurau / Mt Kurow (2009m) in the St Marys Range, south-eastern Canterbury. The tops are very stark and have an otherworldly quality, whilst the valley are of streams running through attractive tussock grass. I imagine winter would be a good time to walk here, but we did it in late spring after the snow had cleared.
The climb: ~ 1200m over 11km (return)
Falling two frustrating metres below my height criteria for this post, tall people and those willing to jump can nevertheless claim to have hit the 2000m mark when they have summitted Castle Hill Peak. This walk is considered a bit of a winter classic, although you’ll need the right gear and experience for that. You visit Foggy Peak along the way, and that is enough for some hikers. But for extra adventure and views then Castle Hill Peak beckons along a long and broad ridge. Conveniently reached from Christchurch, you’ll meet more people on this walk than most of the others in this list.