Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown NZ

A really excellent walk to Mt Crichton near Queenstown. Fabulous mountain and lake views almost the whole way, and a good work out too.

Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown

The climb up Mt Crichton near Queenstown was one of our best walks to date. And even if you don’t visit one of the summit peaks you’ll still feel a sense of achievement and wonder by going as far as the minor peak at 1723m. Be prepared for quite a work out though, as much of it is steep and on a sometimes obscure route.

It starts in attractive beech forest on the Mt Crichton Loop Track, and you can expect great views as soon as you’re above the treeline. There are three main peaks you can visit- the true summit at 1873m is apparently the least visited. On our first attempt we stopped at 1723m, but in 2021 I climbed the other two summit peaks – 1870m and 1845m. There are views of the picturesque Lake Isobel, Twelve Mile Creek, Lake Wakatipu, and various peaks and ridges in all directions. And you’ve a fair chance of having the place to yourself. Track notes at the end. Note that in 2021 I learned of a new poled route up the mountain from Bennets Bluff on the Glenorchy Road, so you might like to call the local DOC office about this. I can still recommend this route for variety of scenery though. But it is quite long!

Mt Crichton ascent: The Scenery

Shots from two occasions here, although conveniently the weather was clear sunny skies and very little wind on both occasions.

Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
The first and last 30 minutes of the walk is on the Mt Crichton Loop Track near the base of the mountain.
Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
Looking over Twelve Mile Creek from the Mt Crichton Loop Track.
Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
Sophia looking up Twelve Mile Creek. The summit of Mt Crichton to the left, obscured by cloud.
Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
Above the tree line looking back towards Lake Wakatipu and Cecil peak.
Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
Lake Wakatipu, and from left to right, the Remarkables (2319m) Cecil Peak (1978m) and Walter Peak (1800m).
Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
Quite steep in sections. And the track runs out every so often, so you have to find your own way.
Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
Speargrass with Lake Walkatipu and Cecil Peak in the distance.
Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
Scree slopes on the eastern side of point 1437m.
Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
Looking down through a gully towards Jessie Peak and mountains on the other side of Lake Wakatipu.
Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
Coffs Harbour NSW may have the big banana, but Mt Crichton has the The Big White Banana. At least that’s what this remnant snow reminded me of.
Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
Mt Crichton viewed from the minor peak at 1723m, the turnaround point on our first visit.
Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
Mt Nicholas (1458m). I’ve always liked the clear contrast in colour on this mountain, which is the border of farmland and reserve. It’s apparently dome shaped because a glacier once road right over the top of it.
Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
Sophia with Mt Crichton behind.
Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
Love all of the blacks greys and browns of this rugged terrain.
Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
An alpine cicada. New Zealand has the only alpine cicadas in the world apparently. It was smaller than the ones I’m used to seeing in Australia.
Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
This was the beginning of the new section of the walk I had not yet done. This scree was reasonably easy to walk across.
Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
A cricket posing for my photo.
Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
Lake Isobel from Mt Crichton (1870m).
Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
The crumbly arete stretching to point 1723m.
Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
Looking over 12 mile creek towards the Remarkables.
Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
Looking west over a very blue Lake Wakatipu.
Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
Lake Isobel looking very green.
Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
Lake Isobel and tarn from 1870m.

Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
The north end of Lake Wakatipu from point 1845m
Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
Lake Isobel from point 1845m. The true summit (1873m) is to the left. It didn’t look all that hard to climb – some loose rock to contend with I guess. I think the pick of the views are probably from the other two peaks but I might give it a go next time.
Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
Lake Isobel from 1845m.
Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
One of two tarns on the shelf.
Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
Another of the tarns on the shelf.

Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown

Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
One of my favourite shots from the trip. It looks like a painted collage but is just a straight shot of ridge lines taken with my telephoto lens. I love the layering and textures.
Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
I also liked this photo of a ridgeline with a very metallic looking scree slope below.
Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
Another shot with my telephoto lens. Here I was trying to capture the contrast in colours and scenery. The farmland is in fact quite remote, being on the other side of the lake, although quick enough by boat of course.
Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
Sophia contemplates the ridge we took on the way back. You continue until point 1432m and then descend very steeply east.

Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown

Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
Sophia walks into the wild blue yonder, or does she… The blue behind is in fact a super calm Lake Wakatipu. Another of my telephoto shots: I was on a roll!
Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
That gully and Jessie Peak again. Looking quite nice as the sun starts to go down.
Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
Climbing to point 1437m.
Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
Sophia on point 1437m, or thereabouts. This looks a bit more intrepid than the reality.
Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
Sophia descending steeply, with Cecil Peak behind.
Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
The route back is along that ridge and then steeply down through beech forest.
Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
Spear grass and Cecil Peak as a backdrop.
Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
Descending through atmospheric beech forest. It was really steep in some places.
Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
Sophia in amongst storm damage.

Track Notes

Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
The route starts on the constructed Mt Crichton Loop Track, then after Maori Creek its on a faint impact track with some tape on trees and bushes and the odd cairn to mark the way. Eventually you will need to navigate off track to reach the summit peaks. and there’s a scramble to climb to 1870m.

I used a couple of online sources when researching the route for this walk, including J Milne’s website, and also the online magazine Wilderness Mag (at the time of writing you can get three free articles per month, so I’ve just linked to the home page).

You start on the Mt Crichton Loop Track going anti clockwise, then shortly after Maori Gully (before the track begins descending), there’s a faint track that ascends steeply through beech forest (sometimes very steeply!). Above the tree line the track is sometimes faint, but the route is essentially along ridges the whole way to point 1723m, taking in points 1041m, 1432m, 1437m, and 1390m. (If you are trying to climb up rocks there is an easier route you’ve missed).  An alternative route is to bypass points 1432m and 1437m, staying low walking on boulders and tussock: see my picture below for a bit of info on your options at this point.

Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
From here you have two reasonable options. The route as I’ve read it online suggests climbing very steeply to the left onto the ridgeline at point 1432m. You will eventually drop down to point 1390m before climbing to point 1723m, which is on the left in this photo. However it was easier to stay low on the boulders next to the tussock line (roughly centre) and you can eventually climb up a shallow gully to meet the ridge at the low point (1390m).

You can continue to the major peaks, being 1845m and 1870m (apparently 1873m is seldom climbed). On our first visit Sophia (my wife) wasn’t feeling too flash so we went only as far as 1723m, which is nevertheless an excellent turnaround point. In summer 2020/21 I climbed to the summit peaks. You have to drop down from 1723m about 40 vertical metres to avoid bluffs. From there cross forgiving scree as per the photo below…

Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
This is the route from below point 1723m to below 1787m.

From below 1787m you can drop down a bit to a tarn shelf and look for a safe way up to the arete (ridge), and as the safest routes up are beyond 1870m you will have to back track along the arete to get to the summit. See my photo below…

Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown
There was a short scramble and then easy walking to get to 1870m.

(I disturbed what I think was a chamois very near the summit, and the way it just ran down the mountain made a mockery of my cautious scramble up a carefully chosen chute.)

If you’d like to visit 1845 from here then scramble back the way you came towards the tarn shelf, ascending a scree slope up to the peak – no scrambling required on this final ascent.

I generally kept quite high on the scree slopes to avoid descending and then ascending again, but I think it was faster to drop down to more level ground and then climb back up again. The tarn shelf in particular was easy and pleasant walking – I took this on the way back (but not on the way out).

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

5 thoughts on “Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown NZ”

  1. Hi Edward, I am enjoying your blog, beautiful photos! I was wondering if it is possible to get to lake Isobel… have you tried?

    1. Hi Kate. Thanks 😀 I read on J Milne’s website that you can climb the mountain via Lake Isobel. Here’s the link: jmilne.org/NZ/cr.htm . It sounds like a long walk though. I hope to be in Queenstown again over the summer and might give Mt Crichton another go.

  2. The true summit looks a lot worse than it is, it should be a simple climb for anyone with any real climbing experience.

    I’ve no idea why so many people think its so challenging.

    Isobel can be accessed from all over the place, eastern traverse, western traverse, down the ramp from the marked high point, or you can even downclimb the buffs under the true summit to get there.

    Great blog!

    1. Yes, it didn’t look too bad. In fact it looked a touch easier than getting to the named summit. Gives me a reason to go back with my wife, and will try another approach next time. And thanks for the positive feedback 😀

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