Purple Hill from Lake Pearson, Canterbury NZ

A thousand metre off-track climb to the summit of Purple Hill (1680m) rewards with great views of Lake Pearson and the Craigieburn Range.

If you’ve driven out to Arthur’s Pass from Christchurch then you’ve passed Purple Hill (1680m), a fairly imposing mound that looms above Lake Pearson as you approach from the south-west. It stands alone, so I expected good views from the summit, and wasn’t disappointed. The pointy (-ish) summit itself is fairly rugged, with long and colourful scree slopes to the west, so it was a fun one to visit. At a little over 1000 vertical metres to the top, and no track, it requires some fitness, but is well worth the effort, and navigation was straightforward.

Track notes at the end. (Note that this walk is on private land and permission is required to access it. We didn’t know that, and I explain more in the track notes section.)

Purple Hill from Lake Pearson: The Scenery

Purple Hill from Lake Pearson, Canterbury
The view back towards Baldy Hill and Mt Misery over the northern swampy end of Lake Pearson.
Purple Hill from Lake Pearson, Canterbury
First look at Lake Pearson from the north-western spur.
Purple Hill from Lake Pearson, Canterbury
The view from towards the top of the north-western spur.
Purple Hill from Lake Pearson, Canterbury
Looking north.
Purple Hill from Lake Pearson, Canterbury
Scree slopes on the western side of Purple Hill.
Purple Hill from Lake Pearson, Canterbury
Surgarloaf (1359m) in the centre, and Arthur’s Pass National Park beyond.
Purple Hill from Lake Pearson, Canterbury
Approaching the last climb to the summit.

Purple Hill from Lake Pearson, Canterbury

Purple Hill from Lake Pearson, Canterbury
Sophia admiring the view over Lake Pearson towards the Craigieburns from the summit of Purple Hill (1680m).
Purple Hill from Lake Pearson, Canterbury
Looking east over a rather barren lookinng Mt Saint Bernard (1518m).

Purple Hill from Lake Pearson, Canterbury

Purple Hill from Lake Pearson, Canterbury
Mt Binser to the right, and the Waimakariri River winding past it.
Purple Hill from Lake Pearson, Canterbury
The Craigieburn Range behind.
Purple Hill from Lake Pearson, Canterbury
On our way down from the summit.
Purple Hill from Lake Pearson, Canterbury
Looking back up at the summit of Purple Hill.

Purple Hill from Lake Pearson, Canterbury

Purple Hill from Lake Pearson, Canterbury
Looking across farmland towards the Craigieburns, the Dark Range, and Arthur’s Pass National Park.

Track Notes

Purple Hill from Lake Pearson, Canterbury
Off track the whole way. The section around the lake is a little cumbersome but it’s an easy if rather steep climb from there until higher up the mountain, when the gradient eases.

Access

Purple Hill is entirely on private land, and although I’d read twice that permission was not required to access this land, two other trampers we met that day had encountered the farmer and been told that they should have asked for permission. It looks like ownership changed a few years ago and so these other notes are now out of date. I believe the land is managed by Craigieburn Station, but I don’t know their contact details. What looked to be fairly unreliable information online showed their number to be 03 318 8618, but I’ve not tried to call. Perhaps you can let me know if you work it out and I will update these details.

The Walk

The walk starts from Lake Pearson Campspite at the northern end of the lake. From there you head north-east with the lake on your right, walking a short way down a vehicle track and crossing over a stile near a hut. You then walk along a fenceline, hugging the lake shore more closely, until you come to a swampy section of land at the very northern extreme of the lake. It’s then along the fenceline some more and over the fence towards Long Hill Saddle. You cross the fence once more and head straight up the hill, meeting the north-western spur, and following it up to the summit. The section around the lake is a little cumbersome, but it’s an easy if rather steep climb from there until higher up the mountain, where the gradient eases.

I’ve read that it’s possible to return via a long scree run and the lake shore to the west, or even swimming over the lake at it’s narrowest point, but I think returning the way you came is an easier option.

Bealey Spur to point 1545m, Arthur’s Pass National Park NZ

The Bealey Spur Track is a classic walk to viewpoints over the braided Waimakariri River Valley. For 360 degree views continue to a minor peak at 1545m.

The classic and reasonably popular walk up the Bealey Spur Track offers excellent views over Arthur’s Pass National Park for less effort than climbing nearby mountains. There’s also no avalanche danger, so after significant spring snowfall we headed out there on a weekday to see some magical snowy scenes. And being on a weekday we had the place to ourselves. You can get great views of the braided Waimakariri River Valley from quite early on in the walk at roughly 980m of elevation. Most people continue through attractive beech forest and over plains of tussock grass to Bealey Top Hut, but for the full experience I recommend continuing past the hut to a minor peak at 1545m. Continue reading “Bealey Spur to point 1545m, Arthur’s Pass National Park NZ”

Hinewai Reserve & Stony Bay Peak, Banks Peninsula, Canterbury NZ

A long circuit walk through mostly native bush in the Banks Peninsula’s largest nature reserve, Hinewai Reserve.

We recently watched a documentary on the advice of friends-Fools and Dreamers-about the establishment of Hinewai Reserve, and also its passionate and somewhat maverick manager, Hugh Wilson. With gale force winds forecast for the mountains on my day off we decided to make our first visit to Hinewai, near Akaroa on the Banks Peninsula. The circuit route we chose took in a variety of waterfalls and viewpoints, the highest being Stony Bay Peak at 806m, where there are views over Akaroa Harbour. Continue reading “Hinewai Reserve & Stony Bay Peak, Banks Peninsula, Canterbury NZ”

Woolshed Creek Hut Circuit, Mt Somers area, Canterbury NZ

Excellent gorge scenery and grand mountain vistas await you on this moderate walk to Woolshed Creek Hut on the western side of Mt Somers.

With severe gale force winds forecast for the mountains on a sunny Saturday in late winter I thought it best we avoid exposed ground, and opted instead for this circuit walk to Woolshed Creek Hut near Mt Somers. Being at lower elevations I did not expect so much from the walk, but it very much exceeded expectations. We did the loop anti-clockwise and climbed up to 1100m on the Rhyolite Ridge and Bus Stop Tracks, with excellent views towards the distant but spectacular Arrowsmith Range, and also of the nearby Winterslow Range. Once near the hut there were narrow and rugged gorges with waterfalls and bluffs aplenty. Great stuff. Continue reading “Woolshed Creek Hut Circuit, Mt Somers area, Canterbury NZ”

Mt Isobel from Jacks Pass, Hanmer Forest Park, Canterbury NZ

A short but attractive climb from Jacks Pass to the summit Mt Isobel (1319m), near the town of Hanmer Springs.

Mt Isobel (1319m) is said to be Canterbury’s most climbed mountain. One reason would be good accessibility, sitting as it does just on the edge of the popular resort town of Hanmer Springs. But it is a very nice mountain, with wide open views over mountains, valleys and the Hanmer Plains, forested lower slopes with colourful heath vegetation higher up, and some rugged rocky sections to boot. Walking from Jacks Pass is fairly short, and there are great views the whole way. Continue reading “Mt Isobel from Jacks Pass, Hanmer Forest Park, Canterbury NZ”

Nina Valley to Nina Hut, Lake Sumner Forest Park, Canterbury NZ

A pleasant walk up the Nina Valley as far as Nina Hut, passing through attractive beech forest & over a picturesque gorge on the Nina River.

This pleasant walk in the Nina Valley as far as Nina Hut was a plan B on our first trip to the Lewis Pass area, as low cloud made put us off our planned mountain ascent. Almost 6 hours in beech forest was a bit much for me, but it was very pleasant forest, and a couple of sections of the Nina River were picturesque too. My photos proved reasonably popular amongst friends and family on Facebook, so I guess that is a vote of confidence in the scenery on offer, but of course look below and judge for yourself. Continue reading “Nina Valley to Nina Hut, Lake Sumner Forest Park, Canterbury NZ”

Little Mt Peel Circuit, Peel Forest, Canterbury NZ

A 1000m climb through a variety of native vegetation takes you to the summit of Little Mt Peel (1311m) with great views of the Canterbury Plains & surrounding mountains.

One of Canterbury’s more popular walks, climbing Little Mt Peel takes you 1000m up through a variety of vegetation types, including podocarp and broad leaf rainforest with a variety of ferns, then native bush, and finally into heath and tussock. The views from the summit are very good, including the Canterbury Plains to the east, and various hills and mountains in all other directions. Continue reading “Little Mt Peel Circuit, Peel Forest, Canterbury NZ”

Mt Bruce Circuit, Craigieburn Forest Park, Canterbury NZ

Top class 360 degree views of numerous mountain ranges and the Waimakariri Valley from the summit of Mt Bruce (1630m) in Craigieburn Forest Park.

I’d heard good things about the views from Mt Bruce (1630m) in Craigieburn Forest Park, and I was not at all disappointed! Spectacular 360 degree views await you at the summit, but there’s plenty of interest for much of the walk. There’s nice forest at the start, already good views on the tracked section, then ever improving views as you climb to the summit.

From the summit you overlook big-ass mountains in the the Southern Alps, numerous peaks around Arthur’s Pass, the wide open Waimakariri River Valley, and colourful patchy mountains of scree, tussock and forest elsewhere in Craigieburn Forest Park. You can also see the long thin forms of Blind Spur and Bealey Spur, the latter offering another good walk in the area that we have on our to-do list (…now done). Making a loop by returning eastward along an attractive ridge will top it all off. Continue reading “Mt Bruce Circuit, Craigieburn Forest Park, Canterbury NZ”

Mt Richardson Loop, Mount Thomas Conservation Area, Canterbury NZ

A pleasant loop through beech (tawhai) forest to the top of Mt Richardson (1047m), where there are good views over the Puketeraki Range and other nearby peaks.

Mt Richardson (1047m) is one of four modestly sized mountains that can be climbed, about one hour’s drive north-west of Christchurch. The others are Mt Oxford (which we’ve done), and Mounts Thomas and Grey to the east. It’s a pleasant if not spectacular walk through mostly beech (tawhai) forest, with just a bit of tussock grass and Dracophyllum scrub on the tops. The views from the summit include the Puketeraki Range rising front and centre above the Lees Valley, Mt Oxford, and further away the the Torlesse Range. Continue reading “Mt Richardson Loop, Mount Thomas Conservation Area, Canterbury NZ”

Mt Alford Track, Canterbury NZ

The Mt Alford Track takes you to the summit of Mt Alford (1171m) for good views over taller mountains on the inland side, and the Canterbury Plains to the east.

Mt Alford sits on the edge of the Canterbury Plains, with taller mountains on the inland side. The walk up is not bad, passing through forested sections early on, a short while in paddocks, then back into reserve for the alpine portion to the summit. The main attraction of this walk however is the view from the summit, although the views over the plains as we descended were also nice.

I spent a fair bit of time up on the summit photographing the changing views as the weather began to clear, enough that my wife Sophia made a small snowman to pass the time (that gets into one of my shots). Track notes at the end. Continue reading “Mt Alford Track, Canterbury NZ”