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.

Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve

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. Despite the northern aspect being completely obscured by cloud, the views in all other directions were 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 all the way to Aoraki/Mt Cook (as you’ll see in one of my shots), and there are views over the Canterbury Plains, west over the Clent Hills and many other more distant ranges, and no doubt north, although we missed out on those. We couldn’t see a great deal from the summit due to cloud, but a less than five minute walk to the west across the summit plateau there is a knoll from where you get excellent views to the west and south. I highly recommend this very short side trip.

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

No views to the north unfortunately due to cloud, but I’ll probably climb this mountain again in the not too distant future, so I’ll add them in then (if I can see them!).

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.
Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve
The Canterbury Plains.
Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve
The scenery starting to get a bit rugged now. This looks like it’s a volcano, and although Mt Somers has a volcanic origin, this is just a plume of cloud.
Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve
Climbing the easy ridge to the summit.
Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve
Interesting alpine plants on the tops.
Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve
Looking back along the ridge to the summit.
Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve
Climbing the ridge to the summit. The hard work is over by this point.
Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve
Sophia on the summit of Mt Somers 1688m.
Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve
Walking towards the knoll from where the best views were (at least in the conditions on the day). Less than 5 minutes from the summit.
Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve
Looking roughly WSW from a knoll near the summit. The next few photos are from this spot.

Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve

Cliffs on the frosty southern side of Mt Somers.
Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve
Looking south.
Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve
Looking north west across the summit plateau. Next time we might walk this way and drop down to the Mt Somers North Face Track.
Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve
Aoraki/Mt Cook from Mt Somers. The Clent Hills in the foreground. We climbed those to the Mt Barrosa summit just two days before.

Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve

Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve
The Clent Hills in the mid ground.
Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve
Looking down to the south west.
Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve
Looking south west.

Descending again from here…

Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve
On the way down.
Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve
Looking east.
Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve
The south face of Mt Somers from the Summit Track.
Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve
Looking back up to Mt Somers from the junction with the Mt Somers South Face Track. I don’t remember the top looking so red but all my shots from this spot had a red tinge up there.
Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve
Looking back up at the summit.
Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve
Sub-alpine plants.
Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve
Pretty lush down in the valley.
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.

I’d read that this south facing route is icy in winter, and requires ice axe and crampons, and it was already quite slippery in a long-lasting morning frost when we did it in mid May. 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 hours or so would 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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