Mt Aicken ascent (1863m), Arthur’s Pass National Park NZ

Superb alpine scenery in all directions on this lesser known walk up Mt Aicken (1863m) in Arthur’s Pass National Park.

Mt Aicken ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park

On our first visit to Arthur’s Pass National Park we climbed the popular Avalanche Peak. On this walk there were great views across the valley, and I was particularly enamoured by a smaller valley that bent around out of sight behind some mountains. (This valley contains Devils Punchbowl Creek, and the impressive waterfall of the same name is easily visited). I noticed that a route up Mt Aicken would provide views of this valley, and after a little research we decided to return a few days later to climb it. The views were fabulous, at least as good as Avalanche Peak but with much fewer people. And it felt a bit more adventurous being mostly off track and unmarked.

The route is fairly rugged, but we came across two walkers visiting a nearby peak who brought their baby with them! So I think if they can do it then so can you! Track notes at the end.

Mt Aicken ascent (1863m): The Scenery

Mt Aicken ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park
A pretty frosty start to the walk (about -3 degrees Celsius as I remember). Some of this frost remained until the afternoon when we finished the walk. I don’t think Arthur’s Pass Village gets much sun in winter!
Mt Aicken ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park
Looking frosty back down in the valley as we ascended the Mt Aicken Track.
Mt Aicken ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park
The rocky path was steep but there were plenty of footholds.
Mt Aicken ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park
Devils Punchbowl Creek in early morning light. My two cameras depicted this scene very differently and I don’t really remember what it looked like in reality.
Mt Aicken ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park
It was an attractive climb up through beech forest.
Mt Aicken ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park
The position of the sun made photography rather hard in the morning, but I liked the effect I got on this photo.
Mt Aicken ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park
Morning light.
Mt Aicken ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park
Above the bushline here looking up the route.
Mt Aicken ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park
Mt Rolleston across the valley.
Mt Aicken ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park
I had done this walk partially to get a good look at this valley, which I had seen from Avalanche Peak just three days before. I probably took a few too many pictures of it from various angles and elevations.
Mt Aicken ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park
Here’s a close up of the head of the Devils Punchbowl Valley. Blimit (1921m) in the centre, and Mt Cassidy (1850m) to the left.
Mt Aicken ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park
Getting rockier as we ascended.
Mt Aicken ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park
On the ridge to point 1844m. Some of it was quite narrow, but had widened by this stage.
Mt Aicken ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park
Sophia just a bit past point 1844m, with rugged cliffs leading down towards Devils Punchbowl Creek.

Here’s a shaky video of the 360 degree views from the summit (I was turning around in thick snow)…

Mt Aicken ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park
View from the summit: I should have got my compass out to identify these peaks, but I’m afraid all I can say is they were roughly south.
Mt Aicken ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park
View from the summit: looking west.
Mt Aicken ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park
Sophia hamming it up on the summit of Mt Aicken (1863m). The named peak is actually a touch lower, and I forgot to even look for it. Oops.
Mt Aicken ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park
View from the summit: looking east (ish).
Mt Aicken ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park
View from the summit: panorama looking west. Mt Rolleston to the right, Avalanche Peak centre, and behind is the Jellicoe Ridge, although it’s hard to tell these peaks apart from the ones in front.
Mt Aicken ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park
View from the summit: looking roughly north.
Mt Aicken ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park
View from the summit: panorama looking roughly south-east.
Mt Aicken ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park
My wife Sophia descending from Mt Aicken, with Mt Rolleston looming large in the background.
Mt Aicken ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park
I took a slight detour south to get this shot.
Mt Aicken ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park
You can just see my wife Sophia on the knoll. Mt Rolleston behind.

Mt Aicken ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park

Mt Aicken ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park
I took a lot of shots with my small wife in them. It’s like playing Where’s Wally?, (or finding Lowly Worm, which was from my childhood).
Mt Aicken ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park
Lyell Peak across the valley, and some peaks from the Jellicoe Ridge poking out at the back.
Mt Aicken ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park
Another view up Devils Punchbowl Creek, this time in early afternoon light as we descended. There’s more to come. I couldn’t help myself.
Mt Aicken ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park
Looking back here at the ridge (to the left) up to point 1844m. It was probably narrowest early on, and although we felt a touch nervous on these parts, I didn’t even notice which were the hard parts on the way back, so I guess it was fine. Perhaps trickier in windy weather, or when there’s ice.

Mt Aicken ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park

Mt Aicken ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park
Sophia bottom right, basking in afternoon sun, with Mt Rolleston behind.
Mt Aicken ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park
That valley again!
Mt Aicken ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park
Here’s Sophia looking up Devils Punchbowl Creek. A great piece of topography 🙂
Mt Aicken ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park
And just one more of Devils Punchbowl Creek (sort of).
Mt Aicken ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park
Looking towards Mt Bealey. That’s on the to do list.

Mt Aicken ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park

Mt Aicken ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park
Back into the beech forest. The afternoon sunlight made it very scenic, although a little hard to show this in photos.
Mt Aicken ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park
Avalanche Peak, which we climbed three days earlier. Also an excellent walk.
Mt Aicken ascent, Arthur's Pass National Park
Some of those rocky paths through the beech forest.


Track Notes

Mt Aicken ascent (1863m), Arthur's Pass National Park
The route is a marked track through the beech forest, then only very sparsely marked after that, and not marked at all once you pass point 1844m. The simplest advice is to not stray too far from views of Devils Punchbowl Creek.

We used track notes on the Arthur’s Pass website. There is some navigation required above the bushline, but so long as you don’t stray far from the edge of the valley containing Devils Punchbowl Creek, then you should be fine.

The walk starts at the high point of the Devils Punchbowl Walking Track (which goes to the falls) and then climbs steeply through attractive beech forest. There are sparse markings for a while until you reach a somewhat narrow and rocky ridge. This might be tricky in high winds or ice, but was mostly straightforward for us, although there is a little exposure. (We actually came across one other walker who had turned back at this point, not confident to take on the ridge, so it might not be for everybody). This ridge leads to a minor peak at 1844m, and from there it’s an easy walk up t0 the high point of the mountain at 1863m.

The named peak is actually nearby, but I didn’t bother to work out which one it was, as I was too busy taking pictures of the really excellent views. (The named peak is seldom climbed apparently, because the ridge to get there is quite difficult).

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

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