Mt Harper Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park, Canterbury NZ

This circuit walk up Mt Harper (1829m) offers wide open views of the Ashburton Lakes District & the Rangitata River, with the Southern Alps providing the backdrop.

Mt Harper Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park

With a forecast of cloudy weather to the north and west of Canterbury this walk up Mt Harper (1829m) in the Ashburton Lakes District was a plan B. It turned out to be one of the best walks we’ve done, with fabulous views in all directions. There’s variety in the views as well, with rugged snowy peaks, lumpier mountains, wide plains punctuated with shallow lakes, and the Rangitata River Valley. The overall impression is of remoteness, which I always like on a walk.

We shared the mountain a while with just one other walker despite being a mostly cloudless Saturday. He was intending to parasail off the summit, but the wind was picking up and turned back, leaving Mt Harper entirely to us.  Track notes at the end.

Mt Harper Circuit: The Scenery

Mt Harper Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park
A fairly epic panorama of the Southern Alps viewed from an icy Lake Camp, at the start of the walk.
Mt Harper Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park
Ascending the lower slops with Lake Camp and Lake Clearwater behind.
Mt Harper Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park
Point 1305m in the mid ground.
Mt Harper Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park
Lake Clearwater and Lake Camp.
Mt Harper Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park
Not far from point 1506m here.
Mt Harper Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park
The Moorhouse Range
Mt Harper Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park
Sophia backed by the Southern Alps. I forget exactly where this was, but it’s not on the summit. A friend said Sophia looks like she just landed here from somewhere, perhaps after a gymnastics routine.
Mt Harper Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park
Looking roughly north west.
Mt Harper Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park
Snowy mountains to the north.
Mt Harper Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park
The summit of Harper to the upper left, and Balmacaan Saddle to the right.

Mt Harper Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park

Mt Harper Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park
Looking north-west towards the alps over unnamed peaks in the same range.
Mt Harper Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park
Sophia ascending the last bit to the summit.
Mt Harper Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park
Looking towards the alps and the Upper Rangitata Valley, and perhaps Havelock River.
Mt Harper Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park
A bit of telephotography to capture these very snowy peaks to the north.

Mt Harper Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park

Mt Harper Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park
Various mountain ranges including Mt Taylor (2333m), the highest point in the Canterbury Foothills, and Mount Somers to the far right.

Mt Harper Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park

Mt Harper Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park
Looking south-east.
Mt Harper Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park
The tops were quite snowy.
Mt Harper Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park
I took a lot of pictures of the Ben Mcleod Range.
Mt Harper Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park
One of my favourite shots of the day. Sophia in the foreground and the impressive Ben McLeod Range in the background.
Mt Harper Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park
Looking south-east along the Rangitata River.
Mt Harper Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park
A panorama of the two peaks at 1644m and 1658m, and a bit of the Ben McLeod Range to the left.
Mt Harper Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park
The head of the Balmacaan Stream.
Mt Harper Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park
I liked the small plants here casting small shadows.
Mt Harper Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park
Ben McLeod Range. I took a detour to get this shot.
Mt Harper Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park
The Rangitata River. Another shot I took on a short detour off the main route.
Mt Harper Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park
Looking up Forest Creek. The Sinclair Range to the right. Viewed from a spot off the main route.
Mt Harper Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park
Yet another picture of the Ben McLeod Range.
Mt Harper Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park
One last close up pic of the Ben McLeod Range. I just love rugged bluffs and peaks.
Mt Harper Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park
Mt Guy in the mid ground.
Mt Harper Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park
Softer lighting as we descended towards Balmacaan Saddle.
Mt Harper Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park
Moody light over the Rangitata River.
Mt Harper Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park
Moody lighting looking north-west.
Mt Harper Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park
Looking down the Balmacaan Stream Valley from near the saddle.
Mt Harper Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park
Looking back up the Balmacaan Stream Valley towards the saddle. This was easy walking on a vehicle track.
Mt Harper Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park
Mt Taylor and friends as dusk approached.


Track Notes

Mt Harper Circuit, Hakatere Conservation Park
We walked this circuit up Mt Harper clockwise. The start is on a vehicle track, as is the section from Balmacaan Saddle to the end. Otherwise it’s off track through open country, so no problem with navigation in good weather.

We walked this route clockwise, opting to climb steeply through tussock to get to the summit earlier in the day, and then have views over the Rangitata Valley on the way down. One advantage of this is if you start to run out of light the last sections of the walk are on an obvious vehicle track.

The start is on a vehicle track, as is the section from Balmacaan Saddle to the end. Otherwise it’s off track through open country, so no problem with navigation in good weather. Roughly 1200m of ascent and descent, at the hard end of moderate. I’ve seen others recommend 5-8 hours to complete the walk, and that seems about right. Two hours drive from Christchurch.

We got the idea for this walk from a newly purchased book, Canterbury Foothills and Forests: A Walking and Tramping Guide, which has sooo many options for tramps in the region. My blog has more photos of course, so even if you buy it then keep coming back here to check out the scenery! 🙂

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

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