Lake Hope and 2090m, Hector Mountains NZ

A remote day trip in the Hector Mountains visiting Lake Hope and point 2090m for spectacular views of the lake and surrounds.

Lake Hope and 2090m, Hector Mountains

I once saw Lake Hope from a plane as we flew out of Queenstown after another walking holiday. It looked fabulous and remote, and I wondered whether I’d ever visit this magical spot. Well, obviously I did, because here is my report 🙂 . It was everything I’d hoped: epic, rugged scenery every which way in the rugged Tāpue-o-Uenuku Hector Mountains, the lake a crazy deep blue despite overcast conditions, and a lovely green tarn as a bonus. You also get views of the Remarkables, and both Wye Creek and Wye Creek South Branch. And all this accessed in a day.

Sounds good, except you’ll earn all these views as you simultaneously bush bash and boulder hop your way up from Wye Creek to access (thankfully) much easier tussock slopes, and eventually the rocky tops. I had visited the tops once before with Sophia for good views of the lake. But this time I extended my route to visit 2090m for the best views, and then dropped down to bag the lake and also a neighbouring tarn. Route notes at the end.

Lake Hope and 2090m: The Scenery

Lake Hope and 2090m, Hector Mountains
Atmospheric start to the walk, looking over Lake Wakatipu.

A few shots from our first attempt at Lake Hope…

Lake Hope Viewpoint Route, Hector Mountains
A picturesque spot where you leave the main track and cross Wye Creek to head towards bluffs used by climbers. The walk is still on a track here, and follows a pipeline on sometimes elevated walkways.
Lake Hope Viewpoint Route, Hector Mountains
Lake Wakatipu as we climbed through easy tussock. Queenstown to the right.
Lake Hope Viewpoint Route, Hector Mountains
I took a short detour for these views of the Wye Creek South Branch Valley. This was our original planned route.
Lake Hope Viewpoint Route, Hector Mountains
Wye Creek, Double and Single Cone.
Lake Hope Viewpoint Route, Hector Mountains
Sophia climbing through alpine vegetation with the Remarkables in shadow.
Lake Hope Viewpoint Route, Hector Mountains
Sophia and Lake Hope from about 2020m on the ridge.

Back to the second occasion (which was a solo trip as Sophia had an injury)…

Views from 2090m

Lake Hope and 2090m, Hector Mountains
I didn’t take many photos on the way up, which is good for making quick progress. This view was from 2090m, my initial target for the day, although I also wanted to bag the lake.
Lake Hope and 2090m, Hector Mountains
Lake Hope and unnamed tarn. This shot was the most colourful of the day, but still taken in overcast conditions. I wonder what the colours would have been like in direct sunlight.
Lake Hope and 2090m, Hector Mountains
Lake Hope and the head of Wye Creek South Branch.
Lake Hope and 2090m, Hector Mountains
A jagged ridge from 2090m to 2071m. Wye Creek at the back.
Lake Hope and 2090m, Hector Mountains
My favourite shot of the day not including the lake. The upper reaches of Wye Creek South Branch, and Ben Nevis centre-left at the back.
Lake Hope and 2090m, Hector Mountains
Lake Hope with unnamed peaks 2258m and 2096m. Not sure if you can also see Tūwhakarōria (2307m) in this shot, behind those peaks.
Lake Hope and 2090m, Hector Mountains
The most epic panorama of the day: unnamed tarn, Lake Hope and the upper Wye Creek South Branch, with Ben Nevis distant right. Taken with my phone.

Visiting Lake Hope

Lake Hope and 2090m, Hector Mountains
Fabulous golden grain in the rock.
Lake Hope and 2090m, Hector Mountains
Looking away from the lake. I came up and down on the right.
Lake Hope and 2090m, Hector Mountains
Down near the shore of Lake Hope. Hard to fit it all in shot from this level.
Lake Hope and 2090m, Hector Mountains
I invested a couple of hours in visiting the lake, and also went to have a look at that green tarn.
Lake Hope and 2090m, Hector Mountains
Down by Lake Hope.
Lake Hope and 2090m, Hector Mountains
Some of the alpine plants were luminescent.
Lake Hope and 2090m, Hector Mountains
Lots of boulders in the Hector Mountains.
Lake Hope and 2090m, Hector Mountains
Looking down Wye Creek South Branch, with Ben Nevis in shadow.
Lake Hope and 2090m, Hector Mountains
I thought I’d take a shot of those peaks without cloud. This was from the ridge at ~2000m before I set off back down.

The descent…

Lake Hope and 2090m, Hector Mountains
Loved the colours of the rock.
Lake Hope and 2090m, Hector Mountains
Lake Wakatipu, Bayonet Peaks and Cecil Peak.
Lake Hope and 2090m, Hector Mountains
The Remarkables, and Wye Creek down below, out of sight.
Lake Hope and 2090m, Hector Mountains
Early evening light.

Side Trip to a Waterfall on Wye Creek South Branch

On our first attempt at Lake Hope Sophia and I originally planned to walk up Wye Creek South Branch, but I think this is more viable as a descent route. We didn’t find our way but did discover a nice waterfall and a few cascades. You might consider this short side trip at the end of the day – it’s very close to the beginning of the trap line. 

Lake Hope Viewpoint Route, Hector Mountains
Crossing Wye Creek South Branch here as we looked for the route up it, which we never found.
Lake Hope Viewpoint Route, Hector Mountains
Bluffs along Wye Creek South Branch. There is a route through these on climbers tracks but we couldn’t find our way through, perhaps put off by the sometimes steep gradients and narrow tracks with risk of slipping and falling.
Lake Hope Viewpoint Route, Hector Mountains
Wye Creek South Branch
Lake Hope Viewpoint Route, Hector Mountains
A waterfall on Wye Creek South Branch that we came across when looking unsuccessfully for the route up the creek. This would make a worthwhile side trip. After crossing the creek on man made infrastructure just keep to the left as you follow climber’s tracks up the hill a bit, and after passing through a few bushes/trees you emerge at the waterfall.

Route Notes

Lake Hope and 2090m, Hector Mountains
You start on the Wye Creek Track, then turn off on a track along a pipeline up the Wye Creek South Branch, but soon turning off on a trapline to the east. From here there’s an indistinct track of sorts, then scrub and boulders to find your way through. Eventually you access easy tussock slopes and make your way to the rocky tops. Navigating your way down to the lake is mostly straightforward. The dotted lines are where Sophia and I walked the first time we visited the area. 

Route finding is a real challenge on the mid section of this ascent. You start off at the Lower Wye Creek Track Car Park and walk up the road to the start of the track where they have a toilet. Rock climbers use the area. (Get more info about this track on the DOC site). 

Turn off from the main track at Wye Creek, turning right (south) to walk along Wye Creek South Branch along an elevated walkway for a while. You have to look out for a trap line running left (east) – take this to begin your adventure. 

Lake Hope Viewpoint Route, Hector Mountains
Here’s the spot where we took our left turn up the hill through mixed scrub.
Lake Hope Viewpoint Route, Hector Mountains
This is the rather indistinct track used to access animal traps and also a couple of rocks used for climbing.

The Hard Bit

The trap line is also used by climbers visiting boulders, but your job is to head straight up, eventually leaving behind any trace of a track (although you might see a cairn or two, and I saw tape on a branch once). Take notice of your surroundings because you need to find your way back down through this, and there aren’t many landmarks. You’ll eventually face scrub and big boulders – the crux of this walk. I’ve been up through here twice and I couldn’t find any easy way through – you just have to be persistent.  

Accessing the Tops

You’ll eventually reach much easier tussock slopes. Head roughly east then north-east and climb 2090m for the best views of the day. (The dotted line to roughly 2020m is an option if you are short of time – this is where we got to on our first visit). 

Visiting the Lake

Drop back down from 2090m and pick your way down the least steep line through rocks and boulders to the lake. There’s some route finding required but after the earlier part of the walk you won’t be phased by this. 

Returning

Return the way you came, taking care with navigation as you descend back to the scrub and boulders, then into bush to meet up with the trap line. None of this is obvious but you know the route is there somewhere!

Allocate a good 10-12 hours for this walk, especially as you might get lost or make slow progress in the middle section.  

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *