Sentinel Peak ascent, Lake Hawea, Otago NZ

Sitting almost 1500m above Lakes Hawea & Wanaka, Sentinel Peak (1814m) is a big day out with 360 degree views of the lakes & surrounding peaks.

Some years ago we did a shortish walk to Sawyer Burn Hut, starting at the Kidds Bush Reserve campsite. I had read at that time it was possible to keep going upwards to climb Sentinel Peak (1814m), however we weren’t experienced at off-track tramping so it remained on the wish list. We finally got around to doing this walk four years later, and it was very satisfying. There are views of various mountain peaks, rugged slopes, and both Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka. One of the highlights for me was the very attractive summit – both looking at it, and the views from it. This is a walk for the more adventurous hiker, as there is some navigation required, and a couple of places with mild exposure. Nothing too serious though – we’re no mountaineers! Continue reading “Sentinel Peak ascent, Lake Hawea, Otago NZ”

Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland National Park NZ

Some of the best views we’ve ever seen from Gertrude Saddle in Fiordland National Park, then even better ones from Barrier Knob (1879m).

Gertrude Saddle (1410m)

You’d be hard pressed to find better views for only moderate effort than those at Gertrude Saddle.  The fabulous scenery starts on the drive in, and continues right to the saddle, where the best views still await you. I’d seen the pictures but it still knocked my socks off. There is some steep walking on bare rock to be done, but it’s not a long walk, and this accessibility makes it a quite popular. So you won’t get any feeling of isolated splendour unless you start very early, or perhaps very late. But the splendour is extra splendiferous, and makes this walk a must-do for any semi-fit person visiting Fiordland.

Barrier Knob (1879m)

For those wanting even more, the 1km and almost 500m vertical climb to Barrier Knob will make this one of the best day-walks you’ve ever done. The reward from this extra effort will be 360 degree views of the area, in particular the spectacular Lake Adelaide. In mid summer this last bit required climbing up steepish snow slopes, but we came equipped and found the going quite easy. Crossing the snow stopped a lot of the people who had begun to climb above Gertrude Saddle, and hence we had the summit to ourselves for over an hour on this cloudless day in peak holiday season. Continue reading “Gertrude Saddle & Barrier Knob, Fiordland National Park NZ”

Mt Taylor ascent, Hakatere Conservation Park, Canterbury NZ

Stark and rugged scenery on this epic day-hike to the summit of Mt Taylor (2333m), the highest peak in the Canterbury Foothills.

I’ll admit to being motivated by epic climbs to high peaks that I can knock off in a big day, and so Mt Taylor was always beckoning. At 2333m of elevation it is the highest mountain I’ve ever climbed, and at 31km and 1650m change in elevation, one of the longest walks I’ve done. The views from the summit over the stark landscape of the Canterbury High Country and Southern Alps are predictably a highlight, however I also very much enjoyed the walk up and down the Swin River South Branch through a very rugged gorge. And despite it being a cloudless Saturday I had the whole mountain to myself (and no Sophia with me that day). Continue reading “Mt Taylor ascent, Hakatere Conservation Park, Canterbury NZ”

Mt Fyffe and Gables End, Kaikoura, Canterbury NZ

Fabulous views of the coast & inland over high peaks make this walk up Mt Fyffe (1602m) and on to Gables End (1592m) a must do if you are visiting Kaikoura.

Kaikoura is a coastal town in the far north of Canterbury, and is famous as a place where tall mountains meet the sea. Those tall mountains are the Seaward Kaikoura Range, peaking at the summit of Manakau (2608m). Grandstand views of these mountains on one side, and the sea on the other, are available from Mt Fyffe (1602m) and nearby Gables End (1592m). Most people would stop at Mt Fyffe, but the relatively easy walking (with one steep bit) across the tops to Gable and then Gables End was the highlight of the day, and so if you have the energy I can recommend this extension. The views at Gables End are also very good. Continue reading “Mt Fyffe and Gables End, Kaikoura, Canterbury NZ”

Mt Binser ascent, Arthur’s Pass National Park NZ

Top class views of numerous peaks & two river valleys on this somewhat adventurous walk up Mt Binser (1860m) in Arthur’s Pass National Park.

Mt Binser had been recommended by a mountaineering neighbour of ours as a walk with great views and a bit of bush bashing to add to a sense of adventure. My wife Sophia rated the views as possibly the best we’d seen since arriving in NZ seven months earlier, which was a big call considering the quality of walks we’d done in that time. The views were spectacular though, taking in two river valleys, including views right up the Waimakariri River, countless peaks in every direction, many of them now familiar to us from other walks, and the rugged bare slopes of Mt Binser itself. Continue reading “Mt Binser ascent, Arthur’s Pass National Park NZ”

Mt Bealey ascent, Arthur’s Pass National Park NZ

A classic walk in Arthur’s Pass National Park to the summit of Mt Bealey (1836m), with grand mountain and valley views most of the way.

Climbing Mt Bealey is one of a few classic walks starting conveniently on the highway through Arthur’s Pass Village. The others include the popular walk up neighbouring Avalanche Peak , Mt Aicken across the valley, plus more we’ve yet to do. As for all of these walks you start with a steep ascent in beech forest, then once above the bushline there are extensive views of very scenic country, with many a rugged peak and deep valley to feast your eyes upon. Continue reading “Mt Bealey ascent, Arthur’s Pass National Park NZ”

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury NZ

Really spectacular views of the Southern Alps and surrounds from the summit of Mt Potts (2184m), in the upper Rangitata Valley.

The long tramp up Mt Potts in the upper Rangitata Valley is a real classic, with awe inspiring views from the summit topping off great views from before you even leave your car. I’d first come across Mt Potts on another hiking blog, and despite them not including many interesting photos my interest had already been piqued. It is a high peak at 2184m, and doable from the bottom (600m) on a long day hike, so that meets my criteria for a great physical peak-bagging challenge. It also came highly recommended in the excellent Canterbury Foothills: A Walking and Tramping Guide. With spectacular views of the Southern Alps promised I made it a target for mid spring, with longer days but still some snow up high. It turned out to be one of our best walks to date: highly recommended for fit trampers with basic navigation skills.

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
Mt Potts viewed on the drive in.

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
The views on the drive in were already great. I imagine winter is pretty spesh.

Track notes at the end.

Mt Potts Circuit: The Scenery

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
Looking up towards point 2140m at the end of the valley.

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
A panorama over the Rangitata, Havelock and Clyde Rivers, and of course the Southern Alps behind.

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
Looking up towards point 2140m at the end of the valley. We took the road to the left on the way back.

The Ben McLeod Range and Rangitata River.

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
A prominent mountain in the Southern Alps, possibly Mt D’Archiac (2875m).

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
The Pyramid (1748m) to the right. It looks more like a pyramid from the road.

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
Sophia with point 2140m to the right.

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
The Pyramid with Lake Clearwater and Lake Camp just visible to the right in the distance.

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
Looking roughly north-west. Our return route is visible on the side of the valley below.

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
There were some colourful rocks.

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
Looking south-east.

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
Sophia on the low summit of Mt Potts (2152m). A spot of telephotography exaggerating the height and proximity of the mountains behind.

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
Walking from the low summit to the high summit of Mt Potts.

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
Sophia contemplating the epic views towards Mt Arrowsmith from the summit of Mt Potts (2184m).

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
Looking roughly north over the Southern Alps.

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
Looking roughly north over the Southern Alps.

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
Many snowy peaks to the north. A follower on Instagram said this was like looking at a menu at a nice restaurant when you’re starving. I replied that some of these meals might be a bit big for me.

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
Looking south-east. The low summit is to the right. Lakes Clearwater, Camp and Emma a distant centre.

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
I believe this is Mt Arrowsmith (2781m).

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
I believe the prominent peak is Mt Arrowsmith (2781m).

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
One of my favourite shots from the day, a panorama from the summit of Mt Potts looking north towards Mt Arrowsmith.

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
Sophia backed by the Southern Alps and Havelock River.

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
Sophia points the way on our descent. Some of these patches of snow were actually very deep drifts.

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
Sophia below. Point 2140m to the right.

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
Sophia backed by point 2140m.

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
On our way down from the summit towards the saddle below point 2003m.

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
Cliffs at the head of the valley.

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
I thought the valley walk back would be a bit boring but I was wrong about that. Plus it was a nice change to walk on a vehicle track. (This track was significantly washed out in places.)

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
Looking down the valley towards the Ben McLeod Range.


Track Notes

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
Most of this walk is on public conservation land, with an easement through private land at the very start. We walked anti-clockwise, and there is no track until you return through the valley on a vehicle track.

We started on the easement track, then entered forest and walked along the edge of a canyon for a short while until the canyon flattens out to allow a crossing of the stream. Meltwater had made the stream rather wild and we ended up crossing on a tree (not exactly recommended, but it was the best of the options at the time).

Mt Potts Circuit, Canterbury
Sophia crossing the stream near the start. I imagine this would be a lot safer without meltwater.

From there it was out of the forest onto the south west spur, up through shingle/ scree and along the ridge to Mt Potts’ low peak. It is then an easy walk to the high peak where the best views of the day are to be had. We had considered walking back the way we came, but to get out of the gale force winds we decided to return via the valley to the west, and that turned out to be a very nice variation. (Not sure if this would be a safe option in winter or not.) Plus we made quick progress once on the vehicle track in the valley. You can follow this track back to the start, but we took a spur down to the forest and along a fenceline to the easement track near the start. (Staying on the track would possibly have been easier.)

The DOC website has info on the Mt Potts Easement Track in their Hakatere Conservation Park brochure.

Castle Hill Peak via Foggy Peak (in spring), Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park, Canterbury NZ

Our second time to do this classic Canterbury tramp, this time in a bit of snow: Castle Hill Peak (1998m) via Foggy Peak (1741m).

I first did this classic Canterbury walk up Castle Hill Peak (1998m) via Foggy Peak in autumn, not long after I had arrived in Christchurch (that post here). On that snowless day there were gale force winds and the final ascent to the summit felt rather adventurous. I had wanted to return and repeat the walk in snow because I’d read that it made for good winter tramping. The Torlesse Range captures and holds a fair bit of snow, so I waited until a sunny day in early spring to do this, having so many good new walks to do over the winter. Continue reading “Castle Hill Peak via Foggy Peak (in spring), Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park, Canterbury NZ”

Ben More Tops Circuit, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park, Canterbury NZ

Rugged scenery as you ascend to Ben More (1655m) along broad ridges on this circuit walk in Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park.

I’d heard this circuit walk along the tops of Ben More, the high point of the Big Ben Range in Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park, was a good winter tramping option, with safe enough travel for those less experienced in snow. By time we did the walk in early spring there’s wasn’t much slow left, but enough to add to the aesthetics of the area. However I think the rugged scenery would look good in any season. Continue reading “Ben More Tops Circuit, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park, Canterbury NZ”

Mt Cloudsley via Long Spur, Craigieburn Forest Park, Canterbury NZ

Great views in all directions as you climb to the accessible high peak of Mt Cloudsley (2107m) in the Craigieburn Range near Castle Hill.

This was my first time to climb a 2000 metre high peak from the bottom (the bottom being at 760m in this case), and was also the highest I’d climbed in New Zealand.  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. 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. Continue reading “Mt Cloudsley via Long Spur, Craigieburn Forest Park, Canterbury NZ”