Mt Griffin via Wilson Knob, West Coast NZ

The best of West Coast scenery on this challenging but always rewarding trip to Mt Griffin (1517m) via Wilson Knob.

Mt Griffin via Wilson Knob, West Coast

I don’t think there’s anywhere quite like the West Coast for rugged landscapes, lush vegetation, and entirely unpredictable weather! Not to mention gnarly terrain. We averaged about one kilometre per hour on this two-day trip to Mt Griffin over Wilson Knob, and we’re no slouches. But you will be rewarded by the very best West Coast landscapes, including rugged and heavily vegetated ridgelines stretching for miles, lumps of land looking like islands in a sea of cloud, and all kinds of handsome plants along the way.

A real classic and quite an adventure. You could do this as a very long day trip, but with plenty of scrambling and route finding required, one day will feel pretty rushed. I reckon take your tent and stay overnight to get the best experience. Track notes at the end.

Mt Griffin via Wilson Knob: The Scenery

Day 1

A couple of shots from day 1 below were actually from day 2, when we had much better visibility. 

Mt Griffin via Wilson Knob, West Coast
The walks starts on the edge of farmland, but soon enters lush West Coast forest.
Mt Griffin via Wilson Knob, West Coast
More lush forest.
Mt Griffin via Wilson Knob, West Coast
Even if the weather doesn’t cooperate, the vegetation in this area is still of interest.
Mt Griffin via Wilson Knob, West Coast
Out of the forest there was still thick vegetation, including dracophyllum trees (left in this picture). There was a wide track cut through this section, which would be impenetrable otherwise.
Mt Griffin via Wilson Knob, West Coast
Looking towards Wilson Knob (1291m).
Mt Griffin via Wilson Knob, West Coast
The slopes on the N and NW side of the ridge were very steep, sometimes vertical, but still heavily vegetated.
Mt Griffin via Wilson Knob, West Coast
You can just see Sophia top left. The weather was mostly cloudy on the way up, but we got some breaks in the cloud, particularly to the west. Mt Turiwhate centre, and the Taramakau River to the right. Lynch Creek down below.
Mt Griffin via Wilson Knob, West Coast
Looking up at Mt Griffin from somewhere near Wilson Knob.

Day 2

Day 1 finished in low cloud with no visibility, but day 2 cleared early…

Mt Griffin via Wilson Knob, West Coast
Our campsite. We arrived Saturday night in thick mist, which only cleared about 7:30am Sunday morning. I was worried for a while we might not get any views, but the weather gods were on our side. In fact I think we might be weather gods ourselves. Just minor deities you understand.
Mt Griffin via Wilson Knob, West Coast
Morning views of Mt Griffin.
Mt Griffin via Wilson Knob, West Coast
Looking down into Griffin Valley.
Mt Griffin via Wilson Knob, West Coast
We camped above the big tarn, and you can just see our green tent in this picture. We left some heavier gear there and climbed the mountain after breakfast.
Mt Griffin via Wilson Knob, West Coast
A panoramic view from the site of an old mine. With views like this I could be a West Coast miner! 😉
Mt Griffin via Wilson Knob, West Coast
The final approach to Mt Griffin.
Mt Griffin via Wilson Knob, West Coast
Another cloudy shot. 

A complete change of colour scheme and landscape configuration on the summit. 🙂

Mt Griffin via Wilson Knob, West Coast
My wife Sophia on the summit of Mt Griffin (1517m), surrounded by West Coast splendour.
Mt Griffin via Wilson Knob, West Coast
Such rugged ridgelines, but softened by the lush vegetation. The Southern Alps in the background.
Mt Griffin via Wilson Knob, West Coast
A panorama east from the summit of Mt Griffin.
Mt Griffin via Wilson Knob, West Coast
Point 1361m. There were tarns down there that might offer camping opportunities.

Mt Griffin via Wilson Knob, West Coast

We packed up our tent and set off back over Wilson Knob and into the forest…

Mt Griffin via Wilson Knob, West Coast
There various varieties of dracophyllum on the mountain. Very attractive plants.
Mt Griffin via Wilson Knob, West Coast
This was the clearest view of this scene that we got. Mt Turiwhate and the Taramakau River.
Mt Griffin via Wilson Knob, West Coast
Views NE from Wilson Knob. We couldn’t see any of this on the way up.
Mt Griffin via Wilson Knob, West Coast
There was lots of this spongy amalgam of colourful alpine plants.
Mt Griffin via Wilson Knob, West Coast
Tall tree ferns.
Mt Griffin via Wilson Knob, West Coast
Harrington Creek near the start.

Track Notes

Mt Griffin via Wilson Knob, West Coast
A very long 14-15km return with 1650m of change in elevation. There’s a marked track through the forest, then a wide cut track through thick scrub. After that you mostly find your own route on grass, but there are pink tape markers helping you through thicker sections of scrub. There are multiple places requiring scrambling and route finding. We camped near point 1,221m (marked by a small red ‘x’).

The route is a very long feeling 14.2 km return, with 1650m of change in elevation. We averaged roughly one kilometre per hour, probably the slowest we’ve moved on a tramp, but it’s beautiful so you won’t mind taking your time.

There’s a marked track through the forest, then a wide cut track through thick scrub. After that you mostly find your own route on grass, but there are pink tape markers helping you through thicker sections of scrub. There are near vertical cliffs to the north and north-west, but you don’t really notice them due to the vegetation. Don’t forget and fall off! 

There are multiple places requiring scrambling and route finding, including a full 50 vertical metre section in the forest, starting at about 625m. That was the longest forest scramble I’ve ever done, and was tricky to descend carrying full camping gear. Speaking of camping, we camped above the large tarn near point 1,221m. 

 

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

3 thoughts on “Mt Griffin via Wilson Knob, West Coast NZ”

  1. Good to see you doing an overnight trip on the West Coast. Mt Kerr is nearby if you want a similar challenge and Turiwhate, of course though there are quite exposed sections there en route to the summit. I see the route now goes a slightly different route from when Frank and I established it via Harringtons Creek. I must go and check it out and do some clarification in that section above 625 m. Canyoners have been going up the mountain to descend into Griffin Ck and I’d assumed the track was better than it’s ever been these days. Perhaps not…

    1. Hi Honora. I wondered when we’d do one of your tracks 🙂. The tracked parts were all easy to follow, but that 50m in the forest was just extra steep with some pretty small/tenuous footholds. We’ve done three overnighters on the West Coast now and they’ve all been excellent. Mt Brown, the Buckland Peaks and this one. I saw that Mt Kerr route. It looks like a long walk in or a substantially longer drive. Would it be a good day walk if we were staying on the Coast?

      1. Well, for you maybe! Too much for me though…we want to go in to Top Olderog via Mt Kerr sometime soon. You could stay at Cowboy Paradise (ha ha).

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