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

Pics from winter, then some from my first ascent in summer.

Winter

Mt Alaska ascent (winter), near Glenorchy NZ
Mt Alaska top right, our target for the day.
Mt Alaska ascent (winter), near Glenorchy NZ
Sophia trudging up towards Heather Jock Hut, with a very pleasing cloud inversion behind.

Mt Alaska ascent (winter), near Glenorchy NZ

Mt Alaska ascent (winter), near Glenorchy NZ
Looking towards the final ascent to Mt Alaska. Not all hat much snow on top.
Mt Alaska ascent (winter), near Glenorchy NZ
Resting at Heather Jock hut.

Mt Alaska ascent (winter), near Glenorchy NZ

Mt Alaska ascent (winter), near Glenorchy NZ
My wife Sophia looking intrepid on this photo.
Mt Alaska ascent (winter), near Glenorchy NZ
We should have put on our crampons in this section, which we avoided on the way down. I’ve chosen this wrong route twice now, when the easier way is more directly up the rocks on the right (to Sophia’s left).
Mt Alaska ascent (winter), near Glenorchy NZ
One of my favourite shots from the day. A good sense of scale.
Mt Alaska ascent (winter), near Glenorchy NZ
The view from the summit.
Mt Alaska ascent (winter), near Glenorchy NZ
I liked the textures, shapes and colours in this shot.
Mt Alaska ascent (winter), near Glenorchy NZ
Snowy slopes viewed from the summit.
Mt Alaska ascent (winter), near Glenorchy NZ
A panorama of Mt Larkins, pt 2232m, and Stone Peak.

On our way back down…

Mt Alaska ascent (winter), near Glenorchy NZ
Black Peak (1989) looming large. This can be climbed as a side trip off the McIntosh Loop Track (which I’ve not yet done). You could do it as an big day walk, but there are huts up there to make it a an overnight walk.

Mt Alaska ascent (winter), near Glenorchy NZ

Mt Alaska ascent (winter), near Glenorchy NZ
Mt Earnslaw at the back.
Mt Alaska ascent (winter), near Glenorchy NZ
The sun going down on Bonnie Jean Hut. Still a ways to go from here.

Summer

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
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 kea on the wing.
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.

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
Lake Wakatipu, the Dart River and Humboldt Mountains.
Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area
The Dart River and Humboldt Mountains.

And a few from on our way down…

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

The Buckler Burn in the valley, and Humboldt Mountains on the other side of Lake Wakatipu.

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

Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area, near Glenorchy NZ
On obvious tracks as far as Heather Jock Hut, then off track to the summit of Mt Alaska.

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.

4 thoughts on “Mt Alaska ascent, Whakaari Conservation Area NZ”

  1. Hello,
    Amazing information and so much details.loved it.Also just wondered if in the winter you needed ice axe and crampons during your hike up mt Alaska?

    1. Hi Nimu. Thanks for the feedback 😊. I think it would be worth taking ice axe and crampons. There were some quite steep slopes and rocky sections that might be slippery in certain conditions. It’s a great walk even if you don’t go all the way to the summit though, and there are good views from a spot that wouldn’t require any gear.

  2. Hi Edward,
    This looks like an awesome hike. I might propose itas a trip for my tramping club. Could you please tell me the times it took you to get to the summit? Did you go there and back in one day or did you stay in the hut? How many does Heather Jock Hut sleep?
    Cheers,
    Alina

    1. Hi Alina. This is a great tramp. We did it in one day, but it’s quite a long day. I think it took us about 9-10 hours in total. Heather Jock Hut is small – I think it fits only about 3 people. It’s on the doc website there somewhere. There’s a toilet though, so if people called in a tent then there are still facilities.

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