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”
A quick climb to the summit of Mt Thomas (1036m) for views over the Canterbury Plains & nearby hills, then a pleasant return through native forest.
Mt Thomas (1036m) is one of four smaller mountains less than an hour’s drive to the north-west of Christchurch, all of which have tracks to the summit and circuit options. The others are Mt Oxford, Mt Richardson, and Mt Grey (we’ve yet to climb the latter). Of the three we’ve now climbed, the walk up Mt Thomas was probably the least inspiring, however the loop walk we did was the shortest and hence was a good option when we wanted to get in a half day’s walk and be back in town for early afternoon. To be fair the best views were probably those to the west which were obscured by cloud on the day we did this walk. For me the most scenic section was the return leg from the summit along a broad ridge and then down through a valley of native forest on the Wooded Gully Track. Track notes at the end. Continue reading “Mt Thomas Circuit, Mt Thomas Forest Conservation Park, 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.
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).
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.)
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 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 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.
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”
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”
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”
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”
Really spectacular views the whole way up Mt Oakden (1633m), including braided river valleys, Lake Coleridge & mountains galore. A real classic.
I got quite excited when first reading about this somewhat challenging tramp up Mt Oakden (1633m), and it did not disappoint. The mountain’s position at the foot of the braided Wilberforce River provides epic views straight up this valley, and these were a real highlight for me. Added to this are excellent views up the Harper Valley, of the Rakaia River, Lake Coleridge, and countless peaks in the Southern Alps. Do it on a clear day for maximum effect. Continue reading “Mt Oakden ascent, Canterbury NZ”
Really excellent views over the braided Rakaia River and countless mountains on this big ascent up Steepface Hill (1876m) in Hakatere Conservation Park.
Since moving to Canterbury (NZ) in Autumn 2020 I’d had my eyes on Mt Hutt (2185m), the high point of a prominent mountain range bordering the Rakaia River. This would be a big walk with limited winter daylight hours, so a good plan B was to first climb a peak at the northern end of this range, Steepface Hill (1876m): a 1500m vertical climb over just four kilometres, and the only ridge on the route up is mostly flat. It’s all in the name! It’s not all about the steepness though, because the views of the Rakaia River and countless surrounding peaks were just fabulous. Also very cool was Terrible Gully at the start, a rather jagged waterway cut out of the hillside. Continue reading “Steepface Hill ascent, Hakatere Conservation Park, Canterbury NZ”