Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve, Canterbury NZ

A varied and satisfying climb to the summit of Mt Somers (1688m), with forest, sub-alpine and eventually alpine vegetation along the way. Great views from the top despite some cloud getting in the way.

I’d been keen to climb Mt Somers soon after moving Christchurch, but for a few weeks Covid-19 restrictions got in the way. After they lifted we set off to summit this mountain before winter set in. I’d seen some photos online and thought it would be just okay, but it exceeded my expectations. The views are excellent, and the mountain tall and rugged enough to make the climb very satisfying. And the lower slopes are forested with beech and later manuka trees, which makes for a nice change from the more open walks in the area.

On a clear day you can see a large section of the Southern Alps, nearby Mt Taylor (2333m), and views east over the Canterbury Plains. A few minutes walk west across the summit plateau takes you to a knoll from where you get better views to the west and south.

It was fairly busy on a Saturday after Covid restrictions lifted, but not enough to diminish the experience too much. Track notes at the end.

Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve: The Scenery

Shots from our first time up the mountain in May 2020, and also some from late May 2021 with a bit of snow, and clear views north and west which we did not get in May.

Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve
Mt Somers on the drive in. The cloud started to close in mid morning.
Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve
On the drive in.
Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve
Climbing through lush forest.
Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve
There was a lot of fog down on the Canterbury Plains, and I thought this particular angle made for an interesting shot.
Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve
Sophia looks like she’s about to tunnel through this forest of manuka.

A few shots now from September…

Mt Somers & Pinnacles Circuit, Canterbury
On the way up through heath vegetation, the Canterbury Plains as backdrop.
Mt Somers & Pinnacles Circuit, Canterbury
The snowy south face of Mt Somers.
Mt Somers & Pinnacles Circuit, Canterbury
The final push to the summit.
Mt Somers & Pinnacles Circuit, Canterbury
Nice contrast in this photo.

Back to May…

Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve
Climbing the easy ridge to the summit.
Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve
Climbing the ridge to the summit. The hard work is over by this point. 

A similar view from September…

Mt Somers & Pinnacles Circuit, Canterbury
Looking back along the final ridge to the summit.
Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve
Sophia on the summit of Mt Somers 1688m.
Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve
Looking roughly WSW from a knoll near the summit. 
Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve
Mt D’Archiac from Mt Somers. The Clent Hills in the foreground. We climbed those to the Mt Barrosa summit just two days before.

Summit shots from September…

Mt Somers & Pinnacles Circuit, Canterbury
Mt Winterslow in the foreground, with the Old Man Range left back.
Mt Somers & Pinnacles Circuit, Canterbury
Mt Taylor (2333m) somewhere at the back there.
Mt Somers & Pinnacles Circuit, Canterbury
A panorama north.
Mt Somers & Pinnacles Circuit, Canterbury
Panoramic views west.
Mt Somers & Pinnacles Circuit, Canterbury
Looking west.

Descending again, all from May…

Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve
Looking east.
Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve
Sub-alpine plants.
The beech trees were often covered in a black moss.
Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve
Ferns!


Track Notes

Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve
An obvious track until the junction at Staveley Hill, then a poled route to the summit. The route gets a bit lost in the rocks higher up, but the poles are never too far away. We went on just a little from the summit to a knoll for extra views.

The route starts on the southern section of the Mt Somers multi-day track (although we met a guy who ran the whole circuit in 3.5 hours). It climbs to Staverley Hill, leaves the track to follow a poled route steeply up the south face of Mt Somers, then onto a flattish ridge to the summit.

This south facing route can be icy in winter, and if so would require ice axe and crampons. It was already quite slippery in a long-lasting morning frost when we did it in mid May, but in fact the upper sections were easy enough with a little fresh snow in September. It may also be hard to follow towards the top in poor visibility.

Nevertheless, in good weather it was a fairly straightforward climb, and the DOC estimate of 5 hours up is a fairly wild over-estimate. I think three to four hours will be enough for most regular hikers travelling with only day packs. Descending isn’t all that much quicker, especially if slippery. I’d say the whole walk is at the hard end of moderate depending on the conditions.

There’s a car park at Sharplin Falls Reserve but it seems to fill up quickly (or at least it did in the days post-Covid restrictions, perhaps full of desperate trampers getting their first fix in ages).  There’s more information on this walk on the DOC website.

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

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