Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area NZ

Really spectacular views from the summit of Mt Alaska (1965m), but there’s plenty of great scenery on the way up if you want a shorter walk. Highly recommended.

Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area

The views from the summit of Mt Alaska (1965m) are some of the best I’ve seen, and climbing this mountain isn’t as difficult as some other walks around Glenorchy. You don’t have to go all the way to the summit for excellent views, but if you have the time and energy I highly recommend it.

There’s a straightforward marked route as far as Heather Jock Hut via either Bonnie Jean Hut or Jean Hut, then an unmarked route up a ridge to the summit. There are excellent views from a flat area containing evidence of mining activity at about 1440m, so I suggest going that bit further past Heather Jock Hut. The climb to the summit from there is steep through areas of scree, but it was fairly safe in good weather, and felt satisfyingly adventurous for someone not so used to this sort of terrain (and I was by myself). Track notes at the end.

Mt Alaska ascent: The Scenery

Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area
The views start getting good at this point, and then never stop being good.
Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area
Mt McIntosh (1701m) and Black Peak (1989m).
Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area
The distinctive Jean Hut: the roof is held down by large rocks.
Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area
Heather Jock Hut and Mt Alaska behind. It didn’t take all that long to climb the mountain from this point, and if you have the daylight hours I think it’s worth the extra effort.
Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area
The view towards the Dart River from Heather Jock Hut.
Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area
A kea climbing on Heather Jock Hut.
Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area
A kea at Heather Jock Hut.
Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area
A few pictures of kea on the wing. Only the top left photo was fully in focus unfortunately.
Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area
A kea on old mining equipment.
Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area
Looking up towards Mt Alaska. You can see a track running across the mountain that leads to a derelict hut I believe.
Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area
Excellent views from a mining area at about 1400m.
Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area
Excellent views from a mining area at about 1400m.
Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area
The Buckler Burn valley. Loved the shapes, textures and colours.
Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area
Nice colours there.
Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area
The final ascent of Mt Alaska along a ridge and through scree. Looked a bit intimidating at first but was fine.

Views from the summit…

Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area
Mt Alfred in the middle there. That’s a great walk.
Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area
A panorama roughly north-west. Mt Alfred and the Dart River centre left.
Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area
Mt Larkins (left, 2300m), point 2232m and Stony Peak (2130m). It was all very grand up there.
Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area
Looking down the Stony Burn valley.
Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area
Distant peaks in the Southern Alps. I think it’s Mt Buck in the centre.
Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area
Mt Earnslaw (2830m)
Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area
Distant peaks and valleys in the Southern Alps.
Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area
Point 2232m and and possibly Stone Peak right rear.
Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area
Lake Wakatipu, the Dart River and Humboldt Mountains.
Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area
The Dart River and Humboldt Mountains.

On the way back down…

Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area
Looking down the ridge. It felt easier going down than up, probably because of familiarity.
Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area
The view from near Bonnie Jean Hut.
Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area
Some of the mining relics.
Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area
Cables across the valley used by miners back in the day.
Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area
Walking back down the Judah Track. The Humboldt Mountains looming in the distance.
Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area
The Humboldt Mountains
Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area
The Buckler Burn in the valley, and Humboldt Mountains on the other side of Lake Wakatipu.
Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area
The view from a State Mine site.
Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area
Glenorchy backed by the Humboldt Mountains.
Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area
Looking up from the start at (from left to right), Mt Alaska, Mt Larkins, point 2232m (and another peak, either Stony Peak or Major Peak (I’m not sure)).

Track Notes

The route to Heather Jock Hut is along a vehicle track at first, then old mining routes. You can go either via Jean Hut or Bonnie Jean Hut. I did a circuit for variety.  Heather Jock Hut is the only one you can stay in – the others are preserved mining huts and worth a look inside.

From Heather Jock Hut you should back track a hundred metres or so (very rough estimate!) to another old mining track, and then climb up noting the cairns to a flat area  with an old oil drum at about 1440m, where you there are excellent views over the whole area (just climb up on a nearby rocky knoll for the best spot). You could stop here and be pretty satisfied, but for peak bagging bragging rights and the best views of all you head steeply up a ridge to the summit of Mt Alaska, which is obvious in clear weather. There is somewhat loose scree and a few steep drop offs that made the ascent feel a bit adventurous, but in reality it was pretty safe, and descending felt a lot easier.

There’s a biggish car park and toilet at the start…

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

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