The Dome ascent, Arthur’s Pass National Park, Canterbury NZ

Top class views in all directions on your way up the Dome (1945m), on this sometimes challenging route in Arthur’s Pass National Park.

The Dome ascent, Arthur's Pass

The Dome (1945m) looms over anybody driving into Arthur’s Pass National Park from the east, standing on the northern edge of the Waimakariri River. The views on offer from the ridge to the summit include the river and countless mountains to the south, which would be enough for most people. But the highlights are in fact impressive mountain ranges and valleys in the national park in all other directions, especially to the north. Certainly some of the best views we’ve seen in this area on a day walk, and there are no bad walks in Arthur’s Pass. You’ll earn these views though, with no easy way up or down the mountain.

This difficulty means the Dome shouldn’t be your first peak in Arthur’s Pass, but for experienced trampers it’s one not to miss. Track notes at the end.

The Dome ascent: The Scenery

The Dome ascent, Arthur's Pass
Shots of mushrooms, alpine flowers and the sometimes colourful rock.
The Dome ascent, Arthur's Pass
The Spike (1440m) and Mt Williams (1718m).
The Dome ascent, Arthur's Pass
Panorama including the Mingha and Edwards Valleys, and The Spike and Mt Williams front and centre.
The Dome ascent, Arthur's Pass
View up the Edwards River.
The Dome ascent, Arthur's Pass
Mt Rolleston at the back.
The Dome ascent, Arthur's Pass
Panorama looking back over point 1759m.
The Dome ascent, Arthur's Pass
It was very rocky up there, all the way from below 1759m to the summit.
The Dome ascent, Arthur's Pass
The Black and Grey Ranges.
The Dome ascent, Arthur's Pass
The Spike and Mt Williams looking rugged from this angle.
The Dome ascent, Arthur's Pass
Sophia was contemplating the final climb with some hesitation. She let the scale put her off – with just some scrambling required on the ridge below us, the final climb to the summit was fairly easy.
The Dome ascent, Arthur's Pass
Sophia backed by our target for the day, the Dome.
The Dome ascent, Arthur's Pass
Panorama from the Dome to the Waimakariri River.
The Dome ascent, Arthur's Pass
Final approach to the summit.
The Dome ascent, Arthur's Pass
Sophia on the summit of the Dome (1945m). Mt Bowers and Mt Wilson on the left.
The Dome ascent, Arthur's Pass
Mmm…
The Dome ascent, Arthur's Pass
Fabulous layers, colours and light viewed from the summit.
The Dome ascent, Arthur's Pass
Mt Binser in shadow. We climbed this three years earlier. Also great views and a bit of bush bashing required, although much less than the Dome.

Video from the summit…

On our way back…

The Dome ascent, Arthur's Pass
The afternoon weather was doing strange things with the light. Looking back towards Mt Wilson and the Dome.
The Dome ascent, Arthur's Pass
The Aicken and Polar Ranges.
The Dome ascent, Arthur's Pass
Taking a scree slope down to the Edwards River. It was okay until further down, when it became very steep and bare.
The Dome ascent, Arthur's Pass
Exiting along the Edwards River.
The Dome ascent, Arthur's Pass
The final section of the walk was through a field of lupins.


Track Notes

The Dome ascent, Arthur's Pass
Off track for all but one kilometre on the Edwards Hut Track. You have to bush bash your way through the forest to gain the ridge, then soon enough this becomes quite rocky. The scree slope we took to the Edwards Valley was very bare and steep in one section. The exit along the Edward River was pleasant and straightforward.
The Start

Our route started at the railway bridge over the Bealey River. You have to cross the river and might be tempted to do so on the railway bridge (there is a narrow walkway). Nevertheless, a sign threatens a $10,000 fine, and as we pulled up at the start we saw a train come around the corner, and they certainly travel fast. In summer fording the river wasn’t a problem – look for the wide flat bits for the shallowest depth.

Ascent

We followed the route described in Canterbury Foothills and Forests to the summit. Enter the forest near some small bluffs just south of the railway bridge. For a short while we followed trap line markers (blue and yellow), but these soon disappeared and then we just tried to keep to the spine of the ridge. We followed the odd animal track when there was one.

Towards the bushline you have to find your way out through some stunted trees, but eventually you should come across a clearing and there are a couple of cairns to help guide you back if you descend this way.

The ridge starts off easy enough, and soon becomes very rocky necessitating lots of rock hopping. There’s not much scrambling until you descend from 1920m. From there it’s a straightforward climb to the summit. Our notes described the ridge as “delightfully easy” – I wouldn’t say that because it is long and the rough terrain makes it slow going. Nevertheless, there’s very little exposure and the views are excellent, so quite enjoyable.

Our notes also suggested 4-6 hours to summit (2-3 in the bush, and 2-3 on the ridge). We took a bit longer than that – maybe 6.5 hours: 2 hours 40 minutes of bush bashing, then I guess 3 1/2 or so hours to cover the 5 km of ridge.

Descent

For the descent you can apparently continue north past the summit and descend scree slopes and tussock, then through forest into the Edwards Valley.

That sounded a bit complicated for us, so we took a scree slope from near point 1759m that had been described as an ascent route on arthurspass.com. It runs all the way down to the river. There are two slopes – take the left one (also the ‘true left’ since you are descending). It started off okay, but perhaps two thirds of the way down it became very steep and bare, so we had to exit the slope (left) to the edge of the bush. We bush-bashed down until the scree slope looked less steep and had more rocks on it, and finished our descent on the slope. We both fell doing all of this and Sophia got cut and bruised. If you do take this route just look ahead and leave the slope before it gets too steep.

The exit along the Edwards River was pleasant and straightforward. There’s even a marked track for a while, which will feel like a novelty.

Your alternative descent route of course is to go back through the forest. You made it up that way after all. I thought this would take too long but to be honest we took over 5 hours returning the way we did, so I don’t think we saved any time.

It was a long day out for us then – a little over 12 hours – which seems excessive for 16km and 1500m change in elevation. Mind you, there were certainly a lot of photographs to be taken, and they do take time. 🙂

You can find parking somewhere near the railway bridge.

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

One thought on “The Dome ascent, Arthur’s Pass National Park, Canterbury NZ”

  1. Great achievement as a day trip. We attempted Dome in spring snow via your route on one occasion but a predicted storm meant unpleasant conditions going from our camp near 1484 on the ridge to the summit so we bailed down that very scree you took. It had a thin layer of snow near the bottom so was fast to descend. We went onwards to the Edwards Hut.

    Our second and successful attempt was via that scree after camping at the base of it on a lovely summer’s day. Congratulations to Sophia for perservering to the summit. I’ll bet she had no regrets. Some folks climb it via the railway bridge near Mt Horrible, and a spur that goes to the summit from the true left of Douglas Stream. That way looks way more steep and gnarly!

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