Mt Catherine via south ridge, Hakatere Conservation Park, Canterbury NZ

Excellent views & good variety on this long ridge walk up Mt Catherine (2085m) from the south, with scenic options to return via scree slopes, streams & the TA.

Mt Catherine via south ridge, Hakatere Conservation Park

I had unfinished business on Mt Catherine (2085m) in Hakatere Conservation Park near Lake Heron. I tried climbing it from the west in winter, but didn’t make the summit. This time I climbed it from the south on a long ridge, taking a scenic variation on the way back to complete a very satisfying day out.

There are views for miles from the ridge, of Lake Heron and its distinctive neighbour Sugarloaf, the Arrowsmith Range, and countless barren mountains to the north and east, many over 2000m high.  My return route along a stream down to the Te Araroa was very pleasant, and included the most dangerously beautiful speargrass I’ve ever seen.

Track notes at the end. From the same start you can also take on Mt Taylor (2333m), the highest mountain in the Canterbury Foothills. 

Mt Catherine via south ridge: The Scenery

Mt Taylor ascent, Canterbury
One shot from when I climbed Mt Taylor – there’s a few kilometres of the walk in common at the start. 

I didn’t take many photos until point 1929m. (The views were nice but clouds were in the way a bit.  

Mt Catherine via south ridge, Hakatere Conservation Park
Views from 1929m.
Mt Catherine via south ridge, Hakatere Conservation Park
Lake Heron and Sugarloaf.
Mt Catherine via south ridge, Hakatere Conservation Park
Looking back down the ridge, with the Taylor Range to the left.

Mt Catherine via south ridge, Hakatere Conservation Park
Looking over point 1877m to the Arrowsmith Range, amongst other ranges.
Mt Catherine via south ridge, Hakatere Conservation Park
A panorama with the Black Hill Range centre.
Mt Catherine via south ridge, Hakatere Conservation Park
The route to Mt Catherine. Most of the climbing was already over, but there was some scrambling required to get down from 2045m.
Mt Catherine via south ridge, Hakatere Conservation Park
The Black Hill Range at the back. I climbed Black Hill early in the year (in winter).

The next few are from the summit…Mt Catherine via south ridge, Hakatere Conservation Park

Wide panorama west.
Mt Catherine via south ridge, Hakatere Conservation Park
Layers of starkly colourful ridges and peaks.
Mt Catherine via south ridge, Hakatere Conservation Park
Looking back along the ridge to the Taylor Range beyond.
Mt Catherine via south ridge, Hakatere Conservation Park
Sugarloaf, and point 1877m ot the right.
Mt Catherine via south ridge, Hakatere Conservation Park
I saw this mountain to the north and thought that it looked like a good one to climb, only to realise I already have. Moorhouse Peak, which I climbed together with Godley Peak, which is behind it.

On my way back.

Mt Catherine via south ridge, Hakatere Conservation Park
Interesting geology here.
Mt Catherine via south ridge, Hakatere Conservation Park
There was low cloud to the south east, and quite a bit of cloud to the west also. Just a strip of clear weather over me. I am the sun god!
Mt Catherine via south ridge, Hakatere Conservation Park
Patchy shadows and great colours on the Taylor Range.
Mt Catherine via south ridge, Hakatere Conservation Park
Looking back up my descent route. It was a very atmospheric section of the route, what with the babbling streams and increasing amounts of vegetation (after all that rock on the tops).
Mt Catherine via south ridge, Hakatere Conservation Park
On the TA here.
Mt Catherine via south ridge, Hakatere Conservation Park
Mmm, that’s good lighting. Very nice views from the Te Araroa as I descended back to the flats.
Mt Catherine via south ridge, Hakatere Conservation Park
These were the most fabulous looking speargrass I’ve ever seen. Some of them were well over my height.
Mt Catherine via south ridge, Hakatere Conservation Park
Apart from the big flowering speargrass there were lots of these yellow alpine flowers.
Mt Catherine via south ridge, Hakatere Conservation Park
Unusual shot of Sugarloaf and unnamed tarn in the foreground.
Mt Catherine via south ridge, Hakatere Conservation Park
Mt Catherine – the summit is actuallt on the left right at the back. I climbed up the spur then ridge from the right. In winter I took the spur on the left.

Track Notes

Mt Catherine via south ridge, Hakatere Conservation Park
You can also do this walk from the Lake Heron car park, which will be an extra 2-2.5 km walk each way. I took the spur onto the south ridge on the way up, then descended on a scree slope and followed streams to the TA on the way back.

You can start the walk from the Lake Heron Car Park, on the southern shore. From there it’s a long approach to the mountain, but in summer you can save 2-2.5 kilometres walking by gaining an access permit to drive along a 4WD track to Harrisons Bight. 

Mt Catherine via south ridge, Hakatere Conservation Park
You can see my car parked at the Harrisons Bight car park.

Either way there’s a longish but flat walk along a section of the TA, leaving this north to climb the spur and gain the ridge. From there continue on the ridge, with just some scrambling required to climb down from point 2045. The main climbing is over once you reach 1929m, and from there you enjoy excellent views the rest of the way. 

On my way back I decided to leave the summit to the south east down a scree slope, and followed a couple of small parallel streams to the Te Araroa Trail. I found this to be a very pleasant section of the walk, with the sound of the babbling water a constant companion, and increasing amounts of vegetation a nice change from so much rock up on the ridge. The short descent back to the flats on the TA was also enjoyable, with good views and a section of giant speargrass that were in flower in early summer. The biggest speargrass I’ve ever seen, but not too hard to walk around thankfully. This return route was a bit longer but worth it for the variety of environments. 

Around 8-9 hours of walking plus extra time for lunch and photos, (I took lots), to cover roughly ~23km and 1600m change in elevation. 

 

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

2 thoughts on “Mt Catherine via south ridge, Hakatere Conservation Park, Canterbury NZ”

  1. We read in the Double Hut hutbook comments from the TA walkers, describing the speargrass as brutal. But like you, we found a way around them. Yet to climb Mt Catherine and had always planned to climb it from the Clent Saddle track but I think your way makes good sense.

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