Purple Hill from Lake Pearson, Canterbury NZ

A thousand metre off-track climb to the summit of Purple Hill (1680m) rewards with great views of Lake Pearson and the Craigieburn Range.

Purple Hill from Lake Pearson, Canterbury

If you’ve driven out to Arthur’s Pass from Christchurch then you’ve passed Purple Hill (1680m), a fairly imposing mound that looms above Lake Pearson as you approach from the south-west. It stands alone, so I expected good views from the summit, and wasn’t disappointed. The pointy (-ish) summit itself is fairly rugged, with long and colourful scree slopes to the west, so it was a fun one to visit. At a little over 1000 vertical metres to the top, and no track, it requires some fitness, but is well worth the effort, and navigation was straightforward.

Track notes at the end. (Note that this walk is on private land and permission is required to access it. We didn’t know that, and I explain more in the track notes section.)

Purple Hill from Lake Pearson: The Scenery

Purple Hill from Lake Pearson, Canterbury
The view back towards Baldy Hill and Mt Misery over the northern swampy end of Lake Pearson.
Purple Hill from Lake Pearson, Canterbury
First look at Lake Pearson from the north-western spur.
Purple Hill from Lake Pearson, Canterbury
The view from towards the top of the north-western spur.
Purple Hill from Lake Pearson, Canterbury
Looking north.
Purple Hill from Lake Pearson, Canterbury
Scree slopes on the western side of Purple Hill.
Purple Hill from Lake Pearson, Canterbury
Surgarloaf (1359m) in the centre, and Arthur’s Pass National Park beyond.
Purple Hill from Lake Pearson, Canterbury
Approaching the last climb to the summit.

Purple Hill from Lake Pearson, Canterbury

Purple Hill from Lake Pearson, Canterbury
Sophia admiring the view over Lake Pearson towards the Craigieburns from the summit of Purple Hill (1680m).
Purple Hill from Lake Pearson, Canterbury
Looking east over a rather barren lookinng Mt Saint Bernard (1518m).

Purple Hill from Lake Pearson, Canterbury

Purple Hill from Lake Pearson, Canterbury
Mt Binser to the right, and the Waimakariri River winding past it.
Purple Hill from Lake Pearson, Canterbury
The Craigieburn Range behind.
Purple Hill from Lake Pearson, Canterbury
On our way down from the summit.
Purple Hill from Lake Pearson, Canterbury
Looking back up at the summit of Purple Hill.

Purple Hill from Lake Pearson, Canterbury

Purple Hill from Lake Pearson, Canterbury
Looking across farmland towards the Craigieburns, the Dark Range, and Arthur’s Pass National Park.

Track Notes

Purple Hill from Lake Pearson, Canterbury
Off track the whole way. The section around the lake is a little cumbersome but it’s an easy if rather steep climb from there until higher up the mountain, when the gradient eases.

Access

Purple Hill is entirely on private land, and although I’d read twice that permission was not required to access this land, two other trampers we met that day had encountered the farmer and been told that they should have asked for permission. It looks like ownership changed a few years ago and so these other notes are now out of date. I believe the land is managed by Craigieburn Station, but I don’t know their contact details. What looked to be fairly unreliable information online showed their number to be 03 318 8618, but I’ve not tried to call. Perhaps you can let me know if you work it out and I will update these details.

The Walk

The walk starts from Lake Pearson Campspite at the northern end of the lake. From there you head north-east with the lake on your right, walking a short way down a vehicle track and crossing over a stile near a hut. You then walk along a fenceline, hugging the lake shore more closely, until you come to a swampy section of land at the very northern extreme of the lake. It’s then along the fenceline some more and over the fence towards Long Hill Saddle. You cross the fence once more and head straight up the hill, meeting the north-western spur, and following it up to the summit. The section around the lake is a little cumbersome, but it’s an easy if rather steep climb from there until higher up the mountain, where the gradient eases.

I’ve read that it’s possible to return via a long scree run and the lake shore to the west, or even swimming over the lake at it’s narrowest point, but I think returning the way you came is an easier option.

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

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