A really excellent walk to Mt Crichton (1870m) near Queenstown. Fabulous mountain and lake views almost the whole way, and a good work out too.
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 shorter poled route up the mountain from the Glenorchy Road, and subsequently did this walk later in the year – you can read my report here. I can still recommend this longer route for variety of scenery though.
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.
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.
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…
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…
(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).
13 thoughts on “Mt Crichton ascent, Queenstown NZ”
Hi Edward, I am enjoying your blog, beautiful photos! I was wondering if it is possible to get to lake Isobel… have you tried?
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.
Lovely, thank you so much! Your blog inspired my next hike tomorrow 🙂
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.
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 😀
Great description. Thanks for taking the time to post. How long did it take you?
Hi John. This was one of the longer walks I’ve done. It probably took 10-11 hours visiting the two peaks.
Thank you for this! Your notes were really helpful on my way up! Really easy to orientate on the track with all your pictures and map.
This hike made my day. I do have one more picture you could add if you are interested (spot where you leave mt crichton loop track) because right now there is a big tree over the start of track to Mr Crichton so it’s easy to miss because it’s looks like no one is supposed to go there.
I followed your route to the summit of Mt Crichton and then it was easy descend to Lake Isobel where I spent a night. I walked out by eastern travers to the saddle at 1390m and then followed same way to parking lot.
Thank you for this one more time! Love your blog 🥰
Hi Marketa. Great that you enjoyed that walk. It’s one of my favourites. That turn off is pretty obscure for sure – a picture would be handy for others. Is it worth a visit to Lake Isobel? I haven’t been down there but that would give an excuse to visit again, and then take your route out to make a partial circuit.
Lake Isobel is nice for a swim and overnight stay. I’ve seen a weta there. So it might be worth it, definitely if you would like to stay overnight. Traversing east slopes wasn’t as easy as west slopes as east slopes are more steep but it’s not as bad. Especially when you see when you go which I couldn’t because clouds were really low.
Give me your email and i’ll send you the picture of the turn off Mt Crichton Loop Track.
Thanks for that. 😀 I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org
Hi, just wanted to say thank you for this blog. I did this hike on 1st of January this year. I followed your guidelines and I could reach the summit easier than I expected. The problem was that I started very late and to save time I thought it would be a good idea to go down for the other side of the mountain, but that side was covered by dense bushes and I couldn’t get through. It got dark, I fell and a stick pierced my body. Luckily, I have signal on my phone so I could call for help. I had 2 surgeries to fix my body but now I’m all good and ready for more hikes 😀
My advice for people interested in this hike: don’t try to cross the mountain, just return for the same way 🙂
Wow! Big adventure Marco. I’m glad it turned out alright in the end. It is a long hike and there aren’t really any short cuts. I have another post on a slightly shorter walk from another angle but even this isn’t very short and navigation is a bit tricky. Happy walking and stay safe! 🙂