Sentinel Peak ascent, Lake Hawea, Otago NZ

Sitting almost 1500m above Lakes Hawea & Wanaka, Sentinel Peak (1814m) is a big day out with 360 degree views of the lakes & surrounding peaks.

Sentinel Peak ascent, Lake Hawea

Some years ago we did a shortish walk to Sawyer Burn Hut, starting at the Kidds Bush Reserve campsite. I had read at that time it was possible to keep going upwards to climb Sentinel Peak (1814m), however we weren’t experienced at off-track tramping so it remained on the wish list. We finally got around to doing this walk four years later, and it was very satisfying. There are views of various mountain peaks, rugged slopes, and both Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka. One of the highlights for me was the very attractive summit – both looking at it, and the views from it. This is a walk for the more adventurous hiker, as there is some navigation required, and a couple of places with mild exposure. Nothing too serious though – we’re no mountaineers!

Track notes at the end.

Sentinel Peak ascent: The Scenery

Sentinel Peak ascent, Lake Hawea
A very calming panorama of Lake Hawea, with Corner Peak on the left in shadow, and Isthmus Peak on the right in sunlight. Corner Peak is on the to-do list, and we climbed the increasingly popular Isthmus Peak some years ago.
Sentinel Peak ascent, Lake Hawea
Getting up higher on the ridge.

Sentinel Peak ascent, Lake Hawea

Sentinel Peak ascent, Lake Hawea
Having a short break to apply sunscreen.
Sentinel Peak ascent, Lake Hawea
Steep and a bit rough in places.

Sentinel Peak ascent, Lake Hawea Sentinel Peak ascent, Lake Hawea

Sentinel Peak ascent, Lake Hawea
The Neck Creek

Sentinel Peak ascent, Lake Hawea

Sentinel Peak ascent, Lake Hawea
The final section to the summit (on the left).
Sentinel Peak ascent, Lake Hawea
Approaching the summit of Sentinel Peak.
Sentinel Peak ascent, Lake Hawea
Sentinel Peak has one of the most attractive summits of any mountain I’ve climbed. Sophia down there crossing tussock to get to the base of the summit rocks. 
Sentinel Peak ascent, Lake Hawea
Climbing up the chute. We should have chosen the first one.
Sentinel Peak ascent, Lake Hawea
Climbing up the chute.
Sentinel Peak ascent, Lake Hawea
Lake Hawea on the left and Lake Wanaka on the right.

Sentinel Peak ascent, Lake Hawea

Sentinel Peak ascent, Lake Hawea
Sophia on the summit. There was just a little bit of exposure climbing up the very last bit, but quite safe except perhaps in howling winds or slippery conditions.

Sentinel Peak ascent, Lake Hawea

Sentinel Peak ascent, Lake Hawea
Leaving the summit.

Sentinel Peak ascent, Lake Hawea

Sentinel Peak ascent, Lake Hawea
Leaving the summit.
Sentinel Peak ascent, Lake Hawea
I loved this valley and surrounding peaks.

Sentinel Peak ascent, Lake Hawea Sentinel Peak ascent, Lake Hawea Sentinel Peak ascent, Lake Hawea Sentinel Peak ascent, Lake Hawea

Sentinel Peak ascent, Lake Hawea
A bit precipitous in this spot. Probably the hardest section of the walk.
Sentinel Peak ascent, Lake Hawea
Lake Hawea was an even more insane blue colour in the afternoon.
Sentinel Peak ascent, Lake Hawea
Here’s a fairly rare picture of me just before we re-entered the beech forest.

Track Notes

Sentinel Peak ascent, Lake Hawea
On a track until you get to the bushline, then it’s up onto a ridge which you follow almost the whole way to the summit. You’ll probably want to avoid the rocky point marked by a blue dot, although navigating around this is still the trickiest part of the walk, with a bit of exposure. There’s a few options to get up onto the rocky summit, which involves a bit of scrambling. You can also climb up onto the ridge from the hut, but that looked rather steep and might only be preferable if you have stayed at the hut. 

The route starts on a nice if rather steep track through beech forest. Once above the bushline you leave the track, which heads to the right, and head straight up onto a ridge, which you pretty much follow until the summit. For much of the way an impact track fades in an out depending on the terrain (obvious on the narrow ridges, but disappears on flatter ground). At one point we veered right to avoid a rocky peak, (a blue dot on my topo map above), and this section is probably the trickiest, with a bit of exposure on steep tussock and scree slopes. Just keep heading around the back of the peak and up to regain the ridge.

Sentinel Peak ascent, Lake Hawea
You want to go around the back of this rocky peak to the right. It is still a bit precipitous in places but I imagine safer than trying to climb directly up and over.

There’s also just a bit of exposure on the very final few metres to the summit. Below are some suggested routes to get up there (read notes in the image caption):

Sentinel Peak ascent, Lake Hawea
To climb the summit you can probably take the scree slope on the far right and go around the back (though we didn’t try this), but I know that the first chute (channel) on the left is a straightforward climb on scree, and we took this on the way down. On the way up we took the second chute and it was a bit trickier with a couple of spots requiring some scrambling. It’s then a short scramble to the summit with just a little bit of exposure on the final few metres (but go to the summit because the views are good and it’s comfortable to sit and have lunch).

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

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