Four named peaks on this long and sometimes gnarly circuit, three of them over 2000m. Starting just outside Castle Hill Village, you first climb Mt Cloudsley (2107m) on a fairly straightforward route, then travel along the tops to Mt Enys (2194m), the highest peak in the Craigieburn Range. Soak in the epic views here, particularly those over lumpy topography to the west.
The descent via Carn Brea (2090m) and Dead Man Spur is at first easy, but gets tricky on the steep lower slopes of the spur. The final sections takes you over Leith Hill (1384m) and back through forest to the start. Track notes at the end. A longer but easier option would be to return back the way you came, (and see comments below my post by Honora about a better route down Dead Man Spur). You might also like to see my photos from when I climbed Mt Cloudsley in winter.
Mt Enys & Mt Cloudsley Circuit: The Scenery
Some shots from August 2020 when we climbed just Mt Cloudsley…
Back to summer 2023, and the route to Mt Enys…
Descending from Mt Enys…
The route up Mt Cloudsley is pretty straightforward. You start just outside Castle Hill Village and take the Hogs Back Track to a junction with a track coming from the left. Leave the track and head all the way up Long Spur to the summit. There is often an impact track visible in the rocky upper portions. Walk long the tops to the summit of Mt Enys.
The descent starts easily enough on rock and scree, but gets very tricky on the steep lower slopes of Dead Man Spur. I managed to find my way down looking for sections of softer scree and tussock, avoiding the harder ground which was a proper falls risk. The best route would perhaps be through a patch of tussock a little to the south-east of my red line.
You cross Whitewater Stream and head steeply up to the saddle below Leith Hill. Climb Leith Hill, and to avoid more risky terrain head east of the summit to descend through tussock. You meet the Leith Hill Loop Track near a depression bordered by a scree slope. Follow this track through the beech forest keeping left at forks in the track to pass by a lodge and then take a short section of road back to the start.
I was moving pretty quickly and made it up Mt Enys in 3.5 hours (2.5 to Cloudsley). From there, delays on Dead Man Spur meant the descent took me longer – about 4-4.5 hours. Probably best to allocate up to 10 hours depending on your route and fitness.
A reader of my blog returned via Whitewater Stream and reported troublesome scree and bluffs to navigate around. But on the upside you can get fresh water from the stream above the cattle fence. The easiest descent route would probably be to just retrace your steps – longer but straightforward all the way down. Edit: see some comments below from Honora about easier routes down Dead Man Spur and going around Leith Hill.
2 thoughts on “Mt Enys & Mt Cloudsley Circuit, Craigieburn Range, Canterbury NZ”
You must be as fit as a buck rat to drop down into the head of Whitewater Stream and then climb up through that scrub to the Whitewater/Thomas R. saddle after all that climbing you’ve already done!
>I believe it’s possible to return via this valley to the north of Leith Hill
Yes, the head of the Thomas River is quite pleasant and has a good variety of terrain and vegetation.
We descend to Whitewater Stream via that groove just south of your route. There’s some good fine scree in there. Done it 3 times and have camped at the bottom.
A lovely exit route from there is to climb up to a wee saddle 80m above the true left of Whitewater Stream 1km southeast of where you crossed the stream and then sidle 40m below and parallel to the fenceline, maintaining height on an initially faint game trail, which then disappears but the vegetation is quite open and pleasant travel. That takes you to the bend in the fenceline up there where there’s a gate and tah dah, over the gate is a 4WD track which leads to the southern and downhill section of the Leith Hill loop track. We’ve done this a lot because sometimes we go in and cut broom/pines then do variants of return.
Oh thanks Honora. Good tips there. I’d like to take my wife up but I don’t think she’d like the route I took!