Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range, Makarora, Otago NZ

Really spectacular alpine views of peaks, tarns and down into braided river valleys, accessed on the Mt Shrimpton Track and then off-track to tops.

Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range

The Mt Shrimpton Track takes you from lush broad leaf forest, through beech to above the bushline. From there you can wander at will, but a long and fabulous day walk is to keep going upwards to the ridge at about 1900m of elevation. There are spectacular alpine views of rock spires and numerous teal blue tarns, down into the Makarora Valley to the west, and the upper High Burn Valley to the east. My first look at the tarns and spiky peaks was one of those moments I let out a slight gasp of wonder.

There’s some scrambling required to get down to the tarns but that is a nice spot and offers a few more chances for crowd pleasing photography. Track notes at the end.

Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns: The Scenery

Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range
At the start. The forest was quite ‘West Coasty’.
Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range
Pipson Creek

Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range

Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range
New Zealand has quite a few interesting mushrooms. There’s a picture of a purple one later on.
Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range
A panorama of the Makarora Valley from maybe half way up.
Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range
It got a cloudier later on and made these scenes harder to photograph from the tops.

Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range

Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range
This scene was ample reward for the big climb up. Mt Shrimpton summit is on the left and although I made a half hearted attempt to find a route up we decided to leave it for another day.
Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range
Spectacular tarn shelves to the east.
Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range
Looking back down to the Makarora Valley from up on the tops. A bit gloomier than in the photo I took above the bushline.
Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range
Although very steep, I think the summit of Mt Shrimpton, to the left, can be climbed from this side. It would have required us to drop down a lot and then climb back up and there wasn’t enough time after all of the exploring we did around the tarns and along the ridge.
Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range
Our lunch spot.

Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range

Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range
The view south-east from near point 1960m.

Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range

Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range
The view back towards the tarns from point 1960m.
Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range
Moody alpine scenes.
Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range
The upper tarn.
Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range
Sophia by the shore of the tarn.

Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range

Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range
Very pointy peaks.
Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range
This shot was taken on my short investigation of a route to the summit.
Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range
Looking back towards the upper tarns from a short side trip I made looking for routes up to the summit of Mt Shrimpton. You can just see my wife down there on a boulder.
Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range
Fabulous alpine scenes amongst the tarns.
Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range
You can see Sophia climbing back up to the ridge at the top right. It was a bit of a scramble no doubt but not risky in dry weather.
Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range
I took another couple of panoramas on the unmarked peak just to the north of where we arrived on the ridge.
Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range
I took another couple of panoramas on the unmarked peak just to the north of where we arrived on the ridge.
Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range
Moody lighting.
Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range
On our way back down.

Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range

Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range
Great lighting as we descended back towards the bushline.
Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range
After coming across a blue mushroom on our last walk to Goat Hill it was time for the purple mushrooms to make an appearance.

Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range


Track Notes

Mt Shrimpton Track to Tarns, McKerrow Range
There’s a marked track until the bushline. From there there is an unmarked track for a while, but that eventually peters out. To get to the ridge veer to the right as you get close to the tops to avoid the steepest rock faces and minimise scrambling. You can see a way down to the tarns from there, although this does require some scrambling. I also visited point 1960m for extra views.

This is quite a long walk: 12-13km return with at least 1700m of change in elevation. It starts on a marked track through different types of forest. From the bushline there is an unmarked track for a while, but that eventually peters out. To get to the ridge veer to the right as you get close to the tops to avoid the steepest rock faces and minimise scrambling. You can see a way down to the tarns from there, although this does require some scrambling (you can see that route in one of my photos). I also visited point 1960m for extra views.

Ideas for visiting the summit

If you wanted to visit the summit of Mt Shrimpton I recommend leaving the increasingly rocky ridge earlier – perhaps around 1600m – and heading to the left (north-east) up steep and rocky tussock slopes. I don’t think you can walk the ridge to the summit without climbing equipment.

I saw a video on Youtube where a couple said they ascended from the south-east, ie, the tarns, but I question whether they actually reached the summit. (The tops were clouded in on the day they walked so there was no evidence of where they got to). I made a half hearted attempt to find a way up, as we were running out of time and my wife didn’t want to go, and was waiting for me at the tarns. I ended up turning back when I hit steep slopes of very loose rock and earth, so that I would take one step forwards and slipped back pretty much to my starting point.

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

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