One of the more gnarly walks in Arthur’s Pass National Park, the climb to Mt Philistine (1967m) from Otira Valley provides an adventurous walking experience through rugged terrain. It was our first time to climb a glaciated mountain, and there are excellent views of the Rolleston Glacier on the mountain’s southern slopes, of nearby Mt Rolleston (2275m), and of many other peaks and valleys in Arthur’s Pass.
The crux of the route is considered the scramble up through Warnock Bluffs, but in perfect autumn conditions this section was quite okay. You’ll need a head for heights though, and this route is not recommended in winter or poor visibility. Loose rock towards the top of the mountain proved more of a challenge for us, and I fell as I was leaving the summit and fractured a couple of ribs, although I didn’t realise it at the time.
There’s more info on the route in my track notes at the end. If you are just wanting a short walk up a very picturesque valley then going to the bridge and track end makes for a very pleasant walk.
Mt Philistine from Otira Valley: The Scenery
There’s a track as far as the bridge over the Otira River. From there an a couple of cairns mark the way through a rocky section, then you follow an impact track up through scree and tussock to Warnock Bluffs. You choose your own route through the bluffs but you can make out roughly where others have gone before you. After the bluffs it’s off track keeping to the north of the east ridge until near the top, with a final scramble to reach the summit.
You can also head north and bit and ascend to the summit along the north ridge. We took this route on the way down but found it very steep and loose near the summit and this is where I had my fall. I think the east ridge is a better way up and down despite requiring a bit more climbing, because the rock is more solid. Either way care is required.
There’s 1100m of ascent and descent and the walk will take you roughly 6-8 hours. The route through Warnock Bluffs is considered dangerous in winter and poor visibility.