Mt Princess (2126m) is a significant peak that I first learned of when visiting nearby Lake Tennyson on a drive into the St James Conservation Area and Molesworth Reserve. It’s a long and potentially tricky route up no matter which way you go, but the views are really excellent, and the gnarly terrain only adds to the satisfaction.
We were lucky to have a good amount of snow remain in late October when we climbed the mountain, adding to the scenic views. (Except perhaps of Princess Bath (a cirque lake), which was still frozen over and so didn’t make so much of an impression.)
The area is easily accessed from Hanmer Springs, and I got a few tips for the route up from Tristan, the owner of Hanmer Backpackers, who is an avid tramper. One section of our route involved a difficult scramble with significant exposure, and because of this only I made it to the summit. I mention other options in the track notes.
Mt Princess ascent: The Scenery
This was one of our gnarliest walks to date. Our route along the south-west ridge started on the St James Cycle Trail, and it’s fast progress to near Mailing Pass, where the ascent starts in earnest. (Note that you can drive along this cycle trail for a few hundred metres in a 4WD to a gate, and walk from there. And I think you can continue through the gate all the way to Mailing Pass, however we thought you couldn’t and so walked from the gate).
You make your way up through heath vegetation, then into the alpine zone. From point 1906m there is a rugged ridge all the way to the summit, and about half way along there was one section requiring a difficult scramble with significant exposure. A fall here could be quite serious, so consider alternate routes to the top if this does not sound like your cup of tea. It turns out Sophia took a picture of this spot, so I’ve now posted this below. Hard to get the scale but it was quite steep and the drop off on the right was significant.
After this it was a pretty straightforward walk to the summit.
Many of the alternative routes I’ve read about involve visiting Princess Bath first, the cirque lake to the south of the summit. You can walk there via the south-west ridge we took, Mt McCabe and the south-east ridge, or even up the Princess Stream Valley. From Princess Bath you can then climb up steep scree slopes to the ridges, or almost directly to the summit up a central gully. (There was quite a lot of wet spring snow on these scree slopes so we weren’t sure about avalanche conditions, and hence stuck to the south west ridge.)