Red Hill via Porter River, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park, Canterbury NZ

Really spectacular views from the summit of Red Hill (1641m), climbed via the Porter River. Not a long walk but off-track and a bit slow going in deep snow.

Red Hill via Porter River, Korowait/Torlesse Tussocklands Park

This tramp up to the summit of Red Hill via the Porter River was our first totally off-track walk, and also our first walk in snow from start to finish. The increasingly deep snow made it hard work for a while, until the climb up to alpine elevations thinned out the vegetation. But the really spectacular views from the summit of Red Hill (1641m) made it all worthwhile, with Lake Coleridge to the west surrounded by numerous mountains popping up out of the otherwise flat plains, and to the east and south east were snowy peaks galore. The Canterbury Plains are also visible, although covered by a cloud inversion on the day we did it.

I first read about the walk in Wilderness Magazine, and that author waxed lyrical about the upper sections of the Porter River Valley in the first half of the walk. It was nice, but a bit of a slog walking through it in snow, and I think most walkers will find the views from high ground are the highlight. Track notes at the end.

Red Hill via Porter River: The Scenery

Red Hill via Porter River, Korowait/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
Our car at the start. Our first time to walk entirely through snow. A bit patchy here, it became quite deep later on and made for slow going.
Red Hill via Porter River, Korowait/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
The Upper Porter River.
Red Hill via Porter River, Korowait/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
Our route up the Porter River Valley.
Red Hill via Porter River, Korowait/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
Interesting clouds back down the valley.
Red Hill via Porter River, Korowait/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
Looking up at unnamed peaks to the south, at a little under 1500m of elevation.
Red Hill via Porter River, Korowait/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
Looking up at Blue Hill as the weather cleared.
Red Hill via Porter River, Korowait/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
The Porter River Valley
Red Hill via Porter River, Korowait/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
Looking back down the Porter River Valley
Red Hill via Porter River, Korowait/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
We met this guy along the way. I missed out on a good shot of it flying away.
Red Hill via Porter River, Korowait/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
The views really picked up as we ascended the spur that led almost to the summit.
Red Hill via Porter River, Korowait/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
I really liked these pointy hills.
Red Hill via Porter River, Korowait/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
On our way up a spur to join the ridge to the summit.
Red Hill via Porter River, Korowait/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
The view from the ridge to the summit.
Red Hill via Porter River, Korowait/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
The view from the ridge to the summit, looking towards the southern end of Lake Coleridge, mostly obscured by Kaka Hill.
Red Hill via Porter River, Korowait/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
The final ascent to Red Hill.
Red Hill via Porter River, Korowait/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
A snowfield on the final ascent to Red Hill (1641m). I’m not sure if I’ve exaggerated the angle of this slope but it certainly seemed to drop away steeply!
Red Hill via Porter River, Korowait/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
Looking towards the northern end of Lake Coleridge.
Red Hill via Porter River, Korowait/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
Lake Coleridge
Red Hill via Porter River, Korowait/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
A panorama over Lake Coleridge and surrounds, roughly west of Red Hill.
Red Hill via Porter River, Korowait/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
A panorama of snowy peaks to the east and south-east.
Red Hill via Porter River, Korowait/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
Sophia on the summit, with the Mount Hutt Range at back.

A video of the 360 degree views from the summit…

Red Hill via Porter River, Korowait/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
Such great topography.
Red Hill via Porter River, Korowait/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
Lake Coleridge and various peaks.
Red Hill via Porter River, Korowait/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
Various mountains stretching towards the Torlesse Range at back.
Red Hill via Porter River, Korowait/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
The Porter River Valley
Red Hill via Porter River, Korowait/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
Various pointy mountain to the east of Lake Coleridge
Red Hill via Porter River, Korowait/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
I took a few too many shots of this view. I really like the topography here though, with various mountains popping out of the otherwise flat ground.
Red Hill via Porter River, Korowait/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
The Rakaia River Valley, with Lake Coleridge in the foreground.
Red Hill via Porter River, Korowait/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
The Canterbury Plains were under cloud.
Red Hill via Porter River, Korowait/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
My wife can be seen bottom left, with Blue Hill and Willis Peak looking overead.
Red Hill via Porter River, Korowait/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
Blue Hill and Willis Peak in the Craigieburn Range. A little under 2000m of elevation.
Red Hill via Porter River, Korowait/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
A bit more cloud moving into the valley.

Red Hill via Porter River, Korowait/Torlesse Tussocklands Park

Red Hill via Porter River, Korowait/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
A few wisps of cloud moving in.

Red Hill via Porter River, Korowait/Torlesse Tussocklands Park

Red Hill via Porter River, Korowait/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
Blue Hill and Willis Peak in the afternoon.


Track Notes

Red Hill via Porter River, Korowait/Torlesse Tussocklands Park
Entirely off track, or at least no track was discernible due to snow. From a layby opposite the lodges and cafe follow the Porter River (just a stream here) upstream. We kept to the true left (right as you walk up it). Near Coleridge Pass saddle take a spur up towards the summit, eventually joining a ridge for the final climb.

This walk was entirely off track, or at least no track was discernible due to snow. The start point is at 950m, but is before the steep climb to the nearby Porters Ski Field, so you probably won’t need chains.

From a lay by opposite the lodges and cafe follow the Porter River (just a stream here) upstream. We kept to the true left (right as you walk up it). For a while we kept quite near to the stream, but chose to drift away from it to slightly higher ground as the walking seemed easier going in the snow. Nevertheless, increasingly deep snow made it slow going for a while. At one point I managed to step right through snow into a pool of cold water, filling up my left boot before I realised what was happening. Don’t do that.

Near Coleridge Pass saddle take a spur up towards the summit, eventually joining a ridge for the final climb. Other track notes I read suggested crampons might be required on this climb, but the snow was crunchy when we did it. Return the way you came.

We were quite slow walking through the snow, and I think allocate a full day in winter. Navigation is easy along the river, however it might be harder on the climb to the summit depending on the weather. 700m change in elevation and about 9km return.

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

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