Mt Taylor ascent, Hakatere Conservation Park, Canterbury NZ

Stark and rugged scenery on this epic day-hike to the summit of Mt Taylor (2333m), the highest peak in the Canterbury Foothills.

Mt Taylor ascent, Canterbury

I’ll admit to being motivated by epic climbs to high peaks that I can knock off in a big day, and so Mt Taylor was always beckoning. At 2333m of elevation it is the highest mountain I’ve ever climbed, and at 31km and 1650m change in elevation, one of the longest walks I’ve done. The views from the summit over the stark landscape of the Canterbury High Country and Southern Alps are predictably a highlight, however I also very much enjoyed the walk up and down the Swin River South Branch through a very rugged gorge. And despite it being a cloudless Saturday I had the whole mountain to myself (and no Sophia with me that day).

The only downside to this walk is 20km walking over flats to get to and from the base of the mountain, but the scenery all around is very nice and so even this was quite enjoyable. And of course you get bragging rights having climbed the highest of the Canterbury Foothills, (the foothills being those mountains not connected directly to the Southern Alps). Track notes at the end.

Mt Taylor ascent: The Scenery

Mt Taylor ascent, Canterbury
Mt Taylor and connecting mountain ranges in morning light. The summit is centre left.
Mt Taylor ascent, Canterbury
Entering the Swin River South Branch gorge.
Mt Taylor ascent, Canterbury
Continuing up the valley.
Mt Taylor ascent, Canterbury
Looking back down the gorge.
Mt Taylor ascent, Canterbury
Continuing up the Swin River South Branch.
Mt Taylor ascent, Canterbury
Very rugged around one of the forks of the Swin River South Branch.
Mt Taylor ascent, Canterbury
Very rugged around one of the forks of the Swin River South Branch.
Mt Taylor ascent, Canterbury
Looking back at the Swin River South Branch.
Mt Taylor ascent, Canterbury
Point 2281 up there.
Mt Taylor ascent, Canterbury
Looking west from the summit of Mt Taylor (2333m).
Mt Taylor ascent, Canterbury
A panorama south east.
Mt Taylor ascent, Canterbury
The view north-west.
Mt Taylor ascent, Canterbury
Looking south towards the Canterbury Plains. I think that is Mt Somers at the back.
Mt Taylor ascent, Canterbury
Layers of ridges and peaks to the north-east.
Mt Taylor ascent, Canterbury
The Southern Alps at the back.
Mt Taylor ascent, Canterbury
Looking west from the summit of Mt Taylor 2333m.
Mt Taylor ascent, Canterbury
A panorama looking south-west from the summit.
Mt Taylor ascent, Canterbury
Looking down Boundary Creek, although I guess there wasn’t much water higher up.

And now on the way back down…

Mt Taylor ascent, Canterbury
This ridge was the route up.
Mt Taylor ascent, Canterbury
The Fingers
Mt Taylor ascent, Canterbury
Looking south east on my way down.
Mt Taylor ascent, Canterbury
Point 1664 and the Swin River South Branch.
Mt Taylor ascent, Canterbury
Point 1664m, looking pretty rugged in the late afternoon light.
Mt Taylor ascent, Canterbury
The Arrowsmiths.
Mt Taylor ascent, Canterbury
It took me 10 minutes to work out how to use the timer on my camera, and then find a suitable clump of vegetation to put my camera on for this shot. I mentioned this on Facebook and my father said “Pity it wasn’t worth it”.
Mt Taylor ascent, Canterbury
Looking down the Swin River South Branch.
Mt Taylor ascent, Canterbury
Returning down the Swin River South Branch.
Mt Taylor ascent, Canterbury
A panorama of the 10km still to go. I enjoyed the slight downhill gradient for a while, but the last few kilometres were tiring.
Mt Taylor ascent, Canterbury
It seems all hills of this shape in NZ are called Sugarloaf. The Arrowsmith Range behind.
Mt Taylor ascent, Canterbury
A ridge leading to Mt Catherine, although I don’t think the peak is in shot.
Mt Taylor ascent, Canterbury
A panorama of Mt Taylor and connecting ranges in mid evening light. Looking a lot different than in the morning shadow.
Mt Taylor ascent, Canterbury
Another new kind of Speargrass with very long curved spines.
Mt Taylor ascent, Canterbury
Mt Taylor on the left.
Mt Taylor ascent, Canterbury
Looking north across Lake Heron.
Mt Taylor ascent, Canterbury
The Arrowsmith Range in fading evening light.
Mt Taylor ascent, Canterbury
A family of swans. They were a bit more agitated earlier in the day when I was walking closer to the shore.


Track Notes

Mt Taylor ascent, Hakatere Conservation Park, Canterbury
It’s easy walking across flats on a vehicle track and then marked and obvious tracks to Double Hut. Note you have to cross the Swin River and this was at least calf deep in early summer, and not enough rocks to avoid having to step in the water. From Double Hut you head up the Swin River South Branch, mostly on rocky the river bed until you come to a fork in the river. Taking the right hand option (as you look at it) for about 50m gives access to a ridge on the left, and from there it’s steeply up through some tussock but mostly shingle/scree to the summit.

It’s easy walking across flats on a vehicle track and then marked and obvious tracks to Double Hut. Note you have to cross the Swin River and this was at least calf deep in early summer, and not enough rocks to avoid having to step in the water. From Double Hut you head up the Swin River South Branch, mostly on rocky the river bed until you come to a fork in the river. Taking the right hand option (as you look at it) for about 50m gives access to a ridge on the left, and from there it’s steeply up through some tussock but mostly shingle/scree to the summit.

I’d allocate 10-12 hours to cover the 31km and 1650m change in elevation, longer if there is snow or you are carrying overnight packs. It’s a big one. You could stay at Double Hut at the base of the mountain to make it a two day affair.

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

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