Lake Hope Viewpoint Route, Hector Mountains, Queenstown area NZ

An adventurous route to 2000m in the Hector Mountains, with views of Lake Hope and rugged mountain scenery. Requires off-track navigation and bush-bashing.

Lake Hope Viewpoint Route, Hector Mountains

This was not a planned walk. We had intended to visit the alpine Lake Hope, but couldn’t find the route up Wye Creek South Branch. Instead we found a route up through scrub and tussock to a high ridge with excellent views of the lake. Not to mention great views of Lake Wakatipu, the back of the Remarkables, into Wye Creek Valley, and over the high peaks of the rugged Hector Range. And if you had more time than us you could drop down to Lake Hope anyway. Only downside is a challenging bush bash on the steepest terrain of the walk, so this is not one for beginners.

We don’t do much bush bashing, and we didn’t know whether we were going to find a way through, or if we did, whether we were willing to go back through it all again. On the way up I thought I wouldn’t be recommending this walk, but in fact we did find a way through, and a couple of small cairns suggested others had done so before us. And past the scrub and boulders it was very easy walking on mostly tussock and some loose rock for the rest of the way.

Change of plans

Our original plan was in fact to walk up Wye Creek South Branch to visit Lake Hope, and then maybe get up onto the adjacent ridge for views. But we couldn’t find a way through the bluffs lower down on the creek, despite there being some climber’s tracks. All track notes I’d read had people descending through these bluffs, so I suspect the route is more obvious in that direction. We spent an hour and a half trying to find a way through, and saw some nice waterfalls for our trouble, but eventually gave up. On our way back we saw an indistinct track through the bush and thought, maybe…? And the rest you can read about in my track notes at the end. 🙂

Lake Hope Viewpoint Route: The Scenery

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
Bluffs along Wye Creek South Branch. There is a route through these on climbers tracks but we couldn’t find our way, put off a bit by the sometimes steep gradients and narrow tracks with risk of slipping and falling.
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
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.
Lake Hope Viewpoint Route, Hector Mountains
Lake Wakatipu as we climbed through easy tussock. Queenstown to the right. The scrub bashing over, we made good progress for the rest of the climb.
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
Lots of peaks stretching into the distance.
Lake Hope Viewpoint Route, Hector Mountains
First views of Wye Creek Valley. Double and Single Cone just in cloud.
Lake Hope Viewpoint Route, Hector Mountains
Wye Creek
Lake Hope Viewpoint Route, Hector Mountains
Sophia climbing through alpine vegetation with the Remarkables in cloud.
Lake Hope Viewpoint Route, Hector Mountains
Lake Hope at 1800m of elevation.
Lake Hope Viewpoint Route, Hector Mountains
I love all kinds of mountain scenery but I think this kind of starkly rugged environment is possibly my favourite. A real sense of height and isolation here.
Lake Hope Viewpoint Route, Hector Mountains
Looking into the basin between 1916m and 2103m.
Lake Hope Viewpoint Route, Hector Mountains
Rugged peaks and ridges, including (I think) the range high point of Mt Tuwhakaroria (2307m).
Lake Hope Viewpoint Route, Hector Mountains
Point 2103m to the right. This would have been easy enough to visit, but we’d had enough adventure just getting to the ridge and it was getting a bit late.
Lake Hope Viewpoint Route, Hector Mountains
Sophia and Lake Hope.
Lake Hope Viewpoint Route, Hector Mountains
Lake Hope was a lovely colour when the sun came out from behind clouds.
Lake Hope Viewpoint Route, Hector Mountains
A panorama of Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables. It was starting to cloud over a bit.
Lake Hope Viewpoint Route, Hector Mountains
Leaving our viewpoint and heading back, with views of Wye Creek and the Remarkables (2319m).
Lake Hope Viewpoint Route, Hector Mountains
Wye Creek and the Remarkables 2319m.
Lake Hope Viewpoint Route, Hector Mountains
Cecil Peak and Bayonet Peaks centre and right.
Lake Hope Viewpoint Route, Hector Mountains
Afternoon light shortly before we descended back into the scrub. It was easier finding our way back through it on the way down.
Lake Hope Viewpoint Route, Hector Mountains
Nice light in the afternoon.


Track Notes

Lake Hope Viewpoint Route, Hector Mountains
This route starts on the Wye Creek Track, then its a proper off-track adventure to high up in the Hector Range, passing through scrub and boulder fields, then much easier tussock to the high alpine vegetation of the ridge where you get views of Lake Hope and the rugged peaks of the Hector Range.

You start this route at the car park for the Wye Creek Track. I would avoid trying to drive beyond this as it very much requires a capable 4wd and there’s very little parking higher up. Walk up the vehicle track past the toilet and onto the Wye Creek Track. You cross the creek on a bridge and head over towards Wye Creek South Branch on a sometimes elevated walkway above a pipeline.

If you want to have a look at some waterfalls and cascades then keep going to the creek and cross over to check out an impressive waterfall accessible on climber’s tracks (see one of my photos above and read the caption for more info). (If you are trying to find your way up the creek, then there was a narrow rock gully through cliffs with a fixed rope to aid ascent, but we didn’t want to invest in this undertaking without knowing what lay ahead.)

Leaving the track

Before you get to Wye Creek South Branch (or back track from it) there is an indistinct track of sorts used to access animal traps, and also a couple of big rocks higher up that are sometimes climbed (I saw bolts in them). See my photos below.

Lake Hope Viewpoint Route, Hector Mountains
Here’s the spot where we took our left turn up the hill through mixed scrub on the indistinct track shown in the next photo.
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 end of this half-track is marked by a prominent cairn above one of the rock faces. From there you just have to head steeply up, picking your way through the scrub, and later, big boulders. We came across a couple of small cairns on our way, so others have done this before. It’s very steep throughout this section so you have to be patient, and be prepared to back track sometimes to avoid deep gaps between boulders and impenetrable scrub. Good navigation is required and please take note of some landmarks to aid with your descent.

Eventually you should see a big bluff ahead – keeping to the left of this will see you in easy tussock, and soon the gradient eases. You’ll feel like you are flying in comparison to the last hour or two! Keep point 1916 to the your right and head up the ridge at 2000m, and maybe climb an unnamed peak while you are there.

You could also visit Lake Hope, and, if you are confident of finding your way, head down Wye Creek South Branch (have a look at this trip report for a loop walk). We returned the way we came: better the devil you know when it comes to a late afternoon descent.

Best allocate 9-10 hours for the whole walk. We took 4 hours descending, but I’m not sure how long it took to get up.

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

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