Mt Sinclair ascent, Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Park, Canterbury NZ

An adventurous route up past a very scenic tarn to the summit of Mt Sinclair (2065m) with spectacular views, especially to the north.

Mt Sinclair ascent, Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Park

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

Mt Sinclair ascent, Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Park
The walk follows Bush Stream more or less for the first few kilometres. It was deep and fast flowing on the day we walked.
Mt Sinclair ascent, Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Park
Looking up Bush Stream to the Two Thumbs Range.
Mt Sinclair ascent, Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Park
We walked up the gully / valley for a while, then up onto the spur on the left which took us to the vantage point above the tarn.
Mt Sinclair ascent, Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Park
Big ass bluffs on the way up.
Mt Sinclair ascent, Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Park
Mt Sinclair’s tarn and point 2061m.
Mt Sinclair ascent, Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Park
Looking up at the summit. Our route was to the left, then climbing directly to the summit along that broad ridge. This involved scary cramponing at the very top, and there are easier slopes straight ahead to the south of the summit.
Mt Sinclair ascent, Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Park
Climbing above the snowline.
Mt Sinclair ascent, Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Park
A basin between 2061m and the summit.
Mt Sinclair ascent, Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Park
The Thumbs, viewed from the summit of Mt Sinclair (2065m). The tallest is 2546m.
Mt Sinclair ascent, Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Park
Wide panorama north from the summit.
Mt Sinclair ascent, Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Park
There were mountains for miles.
Mt Sinclair ascent, Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Park
Views north from the summit.
Mt Sinclair ascent, Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Park
Views east from the summit of Mt Sinclair (2065m), including the Rangitata River, the Harper Range to the right, and the Potts Range to the left.
Mt Sinclair ascent, Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Park
Looking back towards 2061m.
Mt Sinclair ascent, Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Park
Rugged mountains to the south-west.

Views north from the summit…

On our way back down
Mt Sinclair ascent, Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Park
The tarn was extra green, glassy and reflective in the afternoon. On our way up we saw some cashed up tourists land next to the tarn in a helicopter, stay about 20 minutes and then get flown away. We were already above the snowline looking down on them, and the feeling of superiority I experienced was very satisfying.
Mt Sinclair ascent, Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Park
Walking along terraces next to Mesopotamia Station, to the right, and the steep bluffs on the eastern face of Mt Sinclair, to the left.
Mt Sinclair ascent, Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Park
Things looked a lot different in early evening light. I didn’t see any of these spurs and ridges in the morning.
Mt Sinclair ascent, Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Park
Soft light on Mt Potts and The Pyramid across the Rangitata River, both of which we’ve climbed before.

Track Notes

Mt Sinclair ascent, Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Park
Start on the Bush Stream Track, part of the Te Araroa. Climb out of the valley onto terraces next to Mesopotamia Station, and continue along the boundary to a spur which will take you up to above the tarn, From there head up to the summit to the left (south) of a rocky ridge.
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. 

The Route

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.  

Mt Sinclair ascent, Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Park
The route out of Bush Stream suggested by Daniel B. 

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. 

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

5 thoughts on “Mt Sinclair ascent, Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Park, Canterbury NZ”

  1. Hi Edward

    Lovely clear photos and panoramas. That’s a good route which we also did when we climbed it. We left Bush Stream a bit earlier too so didn’t have the river crossings either. We started the climb at 1230 pm that day as we’d walked out from Black Stream, after staying at the old Ayres Hut which is now gone. We skipped going to the pretty tarn as we didn’t have the time. On the summit was telemetry equipment to assist guided hunting parties to locate tahr who were wearing transmitting collars.

    1. We did in fact leave bush stream early. I didn’t write it up officially because we spent quite a bit of time on what I presume to be station land, although outside the paddocks. Plus the descent back down was a bit dicey at the very bottom.

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