Our first time to walk in the St Marys Range in the far south of Canterbury, where we climbed Kohurau (2009m; Mt Kurow on some maps). There are definite similarities to nearby Central Otago mountains, with tussock covered slopes giving way to desolate rocky alpine tops, and wide open views as far as Aoraki Mt Cook. It’s certainly a uniquely stark aesthetic, overlooking remote country to the south and west. This was in fact our second time in as many weeks to circumnavigate a ski field – this time Awakino Ski Field – a very small operation run by Waitaki Ski Club.
You need permission from Awakino Station to access the start of the walk at the edge of Oteake Conservation Park. See my track notes at the end.
Kohurau – Awakino Circuit: The Scenery
You start the walk at Oteake Conservation Park boundary and take the road for a while, leaving this to climb the spur to point 1728m. From there you can join a faint vehicle track (just compressed stones really) until near the summit of Kohurau / Mt Kurow. Continue past the summit for a few minutes for better views of Mt Domett and Little Domett.
To return, rejoin the vehicle track and follow this along the broad ridge for a while, then climb up to point 1881m, and then on to near 1942m. From there descend the somewhat rocky spur, with occasional scrambling, to an obvious stream bed. Descend off the spur before this stream, descending steeply to the road, with a stream crossing required right at the bottom. Follow the road back down to your car. Roughly 14km and 1400m of change in elevation; you’ll be out for a medium sized day, maybe 7-8 hours?
You’ll need to be careful of speargrass on this walk, which is quite prevalent in amongst the tussock grass. Not too much of a problem so long as you look ahead and avoid the denser patches.
There’s information about Oteake Conservation Park on the DOC website.
Accessing the start
You need permission from Awakino Station to drive to the start of the walk at the locked gate on Awakino Ski Field Road (starts near the town of Kurow). I contacted one of the owners, Jaz Mathisen, on Instagram (jaz.mathisen). There’s a few gates to open on the way up, and you may freak out some sheep along the way. They had a habit of running with and in front of the car, I reckon hitting 30km/h and maintaining it for a while. The road is a bit rough towards the end, and I’m not sure how I would have gone in a 2wd car (I drive an AWD SUV).
You can ask the ski club for a key to the gate but there’s no need unless you want to drive all the way to their lodge (and beyond?).