Mt Torlesse (1961m) is one of the most prominent mountains on the edge of the Canterbury Plains. I’ve seen it countless times driving past on my way west to other walks, or else from up in the distant Port Hills. After more than three years living in Christchurch it was finally time to climb it, and I picked a cracker of a day. There’s views of other peaks in the Torlesse Range, including a rugged aspect of Castle Hill Peak, and beyond these are peaks in the Craigieburn Range. To the east are the Canterbury Plains, and south-west is your route up.
Doing this is winter will require experience and gear for steep and potentially icy conditions. Track notes at the end. There are many other options in the conservation area including the classic Castle Hill Peak from Porters Pass, or an alternative router over Mt Plenty. The DOC have a brochure on the area.
Mt Torlesse ascent: The Scenery
Video from the summit:
You need permission from Brookvale Station to travel up the Kowai River. Call manager Stu Gunn on 027 651 1422. He was very chilled.
You can park at the rest area on SH73, before the steep climb to Porters Pass travelling from the east. It’s the one lined by big pine trees. From there hop the fence and follow the farm track through the Kowai Valley until you approach the junction of the Kowai River and Foggy Stream. Continue along the river bed until near the private hut. It’ll take maybe an hour and a quarter to this point. (Note there is a landslide at one point – you can walk in the river bed and rejoin the farm track later, or climb up the landslide and take a foot track for a while).
From there it’s up onto a spur which takes you all the way to the summit. Some parts are quite steep and in winter were covered in a rock hard ice crust, so you’ll need crampons and ice axe.
There are other ways of descending but I returned the same way and the views were nice all the way down. On my descent I aimed for sections of softer snow, but there were some areas which required a steep descent on hard, icy snow, and required concentration. You really wouldn’t want to fall.
It’ll take about 6.5 to 8.5 hours return depending on the conditions, and involves roughly 1350m change in elevation.