It took me quite a while to get around to climbing Mt Sinclair (2065m), though I’d had my eyes on it for a couple of years. The mountain sits a fairly long way from anywhere, south of the Rangitata River, and the way up is not so obvious. I expect most people who visit do so by helicopter, landing next to the picturesque tarn at about 1600m. The tarn is indeed very nice, and could be a worthy destination on foot, but views from the summit are pretty spectacular and worth the extra climb. Perhaps the highlight are views north over countless high peaks, including the Two Thumbs Range to the NW.
You could camp at the tarn to spread the walk out, but we did it in a long day. Depending on the conditions, the main challenge may be getting up to the edge of the conservation area. See my track notes at the end.
Mt Sinclair ascent: The Scenery
On our way back down
Getting there, and notes on Bush Stream
The route starts on the Bush Stream section of the Te Araroa. The car park is at the end of a 2wd road on the south side of the Rangitata River. After the car park the road becomes 4wd only as it crosses a very rocky river bed (although we made it in our Subaru Forester to the base of Black Mountain, just.)
A word of caution to start: to follow the recommended route you must cross Bush Stream more than once, and with high flow this will not be safe, and I’m not being dramatic. We didn’t dare cross it, and had to improvise a route that I won’t recommend. The route out of the stream described here is one taken by a contact on Facebook that had climbed the mountain back in summer. The other option would be to ask permission to cross Mesopotamia Station land, avoiding Bush Stream altogether.
Head west on the TA, crossing Bush Stream more than once (I think) as the river bed narrows. At roughly E:1426388 N:5167417, climb up onto terraces, following an old fence line for a while. Here’s a photo of the suggested route out, provided to me on FB Messenger so it’s low resolution.
From the corner of Mesopotamia Station, where it meets the Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Park boundary, head south just outside the station boundary below many bluffs. At an obvious spur begin to climb in the valley to the north of the spur, then when it looks clear of the thicker vegetation, climb up onto it. This spur takes you all the way to a vantage point above the very picturesque tarn.
From the tarn head up towards the summit to the left of the rocky ridge. As you approach the summit you can keep going up (almost) directly to it, but in spring this involved some pretty steep and scary cramponing. An easier and only slightly less direct route is to keep going up easier slopes to a spot south of the summit, and it’s a stroll from there to the views you’ve been promised. (This alternate route at the top is a dotted line in my map, which I took on the way down). You should be avalanche aware in winter and spring.
The walk involves roughly 1650m of ascent over 16km, but felt longer the day we did it due to challenging terrain/ conditions. Allocate 10+ hours I reckon.