Kohurau – Awakino Circuit, St Marys Range, Canterbury NZ

Wide open views over Central Otago and the Waitaki Valley on this circuit walk up to Kohurau / Mt Kurow (2009m) in the St Marys Range.

Kohurau - Awakino Circuit, St Marys Range

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

Kohurau - Awakino Circuit, St Marys Range
Just outside the conservation area looked like a ski maintenance equipment graveyard.
Kohurau - Awakino Circuit, St Marys Range
Nice views from the very start.
Kohurau - Awakino Circuit, St Marys Range
Climbing higher looking at peaks in the St Marys Range, including Mt Bitterness.
Kohurau - Awakino Circuit, St Marys Range
We got views of Aoraki Mt Cook, 135km away.
Kohurau - Awakino Circuit, St Marys Range
The Waitaki River flowing to the coast north of Oamaru.
Kohurau - Awakino Circuit, St Marys Range
The final flattish section to Kohurau was a large stone field. Sophia is the middle there for scale.
Kohurau - Awakino Circuit, St Marys Range
The tops were mostly just stones, but here and there these hardy alpine plants sprouted.
Kohurau - Awakino Circuit, St Marys Range
They had quite a few of these spiders living over 1900m.
Kohurau - Awakino Circuit, St Marys Range
Looking into Central Otago.
Kohurau - Awakino Circuit, St Marys Range
Mt Domett and Little Domett. They looked quite impressive compared to the less defined mountains in the area, although I wasn’t able to capture this in my photography.
Kohurau - Awakino Circuit, St Marys Range
A wider angle on Mt Domett and Little Domett.
Kohurau - Awakino Circuit, St Marys Range
This big ass tor stood alone.
Kohurau - Awakino Circuit, St Marys Range
A stark, foreboding ridge.
Kohurau - Awakino Circuit, St Marys Range
Looking back at Kohurau. Not that much to look at from this angle, but you get an impression from this photo of how little vegetation there was in this area.
Kohurau - Awakino Circuit, St Marys Range
An alpine basin viewed from 1881m.
Kohurau - Awakino Circuit, St Marys Range
Looking down an unnamed stream and into Central Otago.
Kohurau - Awakino Circuit, St Marys Range
The Awakino ski field.
Kohurau - Awakino Circuit, St Marys Range
There were some scrambly spots on this spur, which was our descent route.
Kohurau - Awakino Circuit, St Marys Range
Interesting, muted colours.
Kohurau - Awakino Circuit, St Marys Range
Looking up at Mt Bitterness (on the left).
Kohurau - Awakino Circuit, St Marys Range
Back at the start.

Track Notes

Kohurau - Awakino Circuit, St Marys Range
We started at the Oteake Conservation Park boundary and took 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. To return follow the ridge past the ski field and descend the next spur, dropping down off the spur to the road before a stream bed.

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?).  

 

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

2 thoughts on “Kohurau – Awakino Circuit, St Marys Range, Canterbury NZ”

  1. Your descent spur looks a bit mean! We climbed Kohurau from the southern spur after climbing via the 4WD track from the Awakino River. I recall the barren terrain and the wee rock wall constructed at the summit, overlooking the skifield. We did a circuit from there via Hut Creek, stayed at the stone hut there and then traveled to Green Gully and Grayson Peak where sheep had grazed, and over the St Marys Range to join up with the 4WD track that we’d come up from the Awakino River. I rarked up a stag but fortunately it didn’t come over to sort us out. Never again…Funny, we were recently on the Hawkdun Range, looking across at Kohurau and you’ve got where we were in a photo here.

    1. Yes, that descent was rocky in places, but the opposite side of the ridge was much safer than the side in my photos, and we had to use that a few times to get around obstacles. Been up in the Hawkdun Range once before and liked it. Feels very remote.

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