A really excellent walk to Mt Crichton 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 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.
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).