Mt Pisa via Tinwald Burn Ridge Track, Central Otago NZ

A long hard walk up 1600m of elevation to reach the barren plateau on top of the Pisa Range, finishing at the summit of Mt Pisa (1963m).

Mt Pisa via Tinwald Burn Ridge Track, Central Otago

The ascent of Mt Pisa is a pretty gruelling slog up 1600m of elevation over 12.5 km, but the otherworldly moonscape on top is impressive and worth the effort. Most of the climb is through farmland on a vehicle track, and when we did it there was a lot of animal dung around, so it wasn’t the most pleasant experience. Once out of the farmland and into the Pisa Conservation Area the terrain changes to a barren and rocky moonscape, and when on the plateau there’s a further 2km of mostly flat walking to rocks on the summit at 1963m of elevation.

There’s no shade at all for the length of the 25km walk so don’t forget your hat, and pick a mild day weather wise.

Mt Pisa via Tinwald Burn Ridge Track, Central Otago
Looking up at Mt Pisa 1963m from near the start.

Track Notes

We used track notes in Day Walks of New Zealand: Central Otago and Queenstown. The Tinwald Burn Ridge Track starts roughly here, and can be seen on the Google Maps satellite view, although it’s not marked as a track. The track reaches the plateau here, and then its a mostly flat walk north to the summit. Return the same way.

About half way there’s a fork in the track: take the left hand option as the right hand option enters private property. There was a sign noting this.

The Scenery

Mt Pisa via Tinwald Burn Ridge Track, Central Otago
Mt Pisa viewed from the east.

Mt Pisa via Tinwald Burn Ridge Track, Central Otago

Mt Pisa via Tinwald Burn Ridge Track, Central Otago
A panorama looking east.
Mt Pisa via Tinwald Burn Ridge Track, Central Otago
Approaching the summit plateau of the Pisa Range.

Mt Pisa via Tinwald Burn Ridge Track, Central Otago Mt Pisa via Tinwald Burn Ridge Track, Central Otago

Mt Pisa via Tinwald Burn Ridge Track, Central Otago
The view as you first ascend on to the plateau at about 1900m asl. Mt Aspiring in the distance, and it was also possible to see Mt Cook. We’d chosen a slightly cloudy day to avoid cooking in the sun on the way up – no shade for this walk.
Mt Pisa via Tinwald Burn Ridge Track, Central Otago
It was flat and barren up there.

Mt Pisa via Tinwald Burn Ridge Track, Central Otago

Mt Pisa via Tinwald Burn Ridge Track, Central Otago
Looking north-east-ish.

Mt Pisa via Tinwald Burn Ridge Track, Central Otago Mt Pisa via Tinwald Burn Ridge Track, Central Otago

Mt Pisa via Tinwald Burn Ridge Track, Central Otago
The summit rocks.

Mt Pisa via Tinwald Burn Ridge Track, Central Otago

Mt Pisa via Tinwald Burn Ridge Track, Central Otago
Looking towards the Clutha Valley and various mountains, including the Old Woman range where we walked in similar barren surroundings two years ago.

Mt Pisa via Tinwald Burn Ridge Track, Central Otago Mt Pisa via Tinwald Burn Ridge Track, Central Otago Mt Pisa via Tinwald Burn Ridge Track, Central Otago

Mt Pisa via Tinwald Burn Ridge Track, Central Otago
Having lunch on the summit.
Mt Pisa via Tinwald Burn Ridge Track, Central Otago
Looking north-west. The mountain sloped away more gently on the western side compared to the eastern side. Possibly Lake Wanaka in the distance.
Mt Pisa via Tinwald Burn Ridge Track, Central Otago
Returning.
Mt Pisa via Tinwald Burn Ridge Track, Central Otago
Lake Dunstan down there.
Mt Pisa via Tinwald Burn Ridge Track, Central Otago
Remnant snow despite being mid summer.
Mt Pisa via Tinwald Burn Ridge Track, Central Otago
My wife Sophia can be seen on the track to the right. It was a big wide open space.
Mt Pisa via Tinwald Burn Ridge Track, Central Otago
It was a desolate place on the plateau, with a few tors poking out here and there.
Mt Pisa via Tinwald Burn Ridge Track, Central Otago
About to commence the long descent back to the car.
Mt Pisa via Tinwald Burn Ridge Track, Central Otago
A very weird looking alpine plant.
Mt Pisa via Tinwald Burn Ridge Track, Central Otago
Looking east over Lake Dunstan.

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

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