Mt Owen via Granity Pass Hut, Kahurangi National Park NZ

Mt Owen (1875m) in Kahurangi National Park is one of NZ’s most unique mountains, famous for limestone rock formations & spectacular views.

Mt Owen (1875m) is a fabulously gnarled and crevassed lump of limestone, and the tallest mountain in Kahurangi National Park, at the top of the South Island. As one of the most unique mountains in NZ, climbing it had been on my to do list for a few years. It ended up being the last mountain we climbed on the South Island, before leaving the country after four years living there. There’s not only spectacular views from the summit, but a good variety of plant and bird life, and the final rocky kilometre to the summit is otherworldly. Highly recommended.

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Treble Cone Summit from the Ski Field, Wānaka NZ

Half-day walk to Treble Cone summit (2058m) from the ski field car park for excellent views of Lake Wānaka and the Matukituki Valley.

When climbing End Peak from the Treble Cone Ski Field in 2023 we realised that climbing Treble Cone summit would make a good half-day walk. So on a sunny day when we got up too late to do a full day-walk, we headed on out to Wānaka. Walking through ski fields is never the best experience, but once on the tops the views are excellent. In particular views of Lake Wānaka, and north up the Matukituki Valley, bounded on the west side by very wrinkly and defined topography.

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Castle Hill Rocks / Kura Tawhiti, Canterbury NZ

Stroll through impressive limestone rock formations at Kura Tawhiti / Castle Hill, situated on SH73 between Christchurch & the West Coast.

Castle Hill Rocks / Kura Tawhiti are an outcrop of enormous limestone rocks just off the SH73 highway between Christchurch and the West Coast. You can take a 40 minute stroll through the rocks, which are an impressive sight. Expect to be joined by quite a crowd as they are a popular attraction and easy to access. Continue reading “Castle Hill Rocks / Kura Tawhiti, Canterbury NZ”

Devils Creek Track to Mt Kinaki, Bendigo Conservation Area, Central Otago NZ

Central Otago at its finest on the Devils Creek Track to Mt Kinaki (1309m). Arid, rocky landscapes including the deeply cut Devils Creek as a highlight.

Many day-walks in Central Otago are let down somewhat by a long walk in weedy farmland to get to a conservation area, and then before you know it, it’s time to return. On paper the walk up Devils Creek Track to Mt Kinaki (1309m) is just this kind of walk, although I thought the topography of Devils Creek held some promise. Well, I ended up enjoying this walk from start to finish. In perfect mid-autumn conditions the colours were just lovely, including the weeds, and the rocky slopes of the Dunstan Range were otherworldy. But it was Devils Creek itself that stole the show – a fabulously deep cut, arid and rocky valley that I think earns its devilish name. You also get views back towards Lake Dunstan and the 1963m Pisa Range. Continue reading “Devils Creek Track to Mt Kinaki, Bendigo Conservation Area, Central Otago NZ”

Mt Somers & The Pinnacles Circuit, Canterbury NZ

A classic circuit walk taking in two major attractions, the summit of Mt Somers (1688m) with great views, & the spectacular Pinnacles rock formations.

On our first time up Mt Somers (1688m) we missed some of the views north and west due to cloud, but no such problem this time. You get wide open views of the Southern Alps, of Mt Taylor, the highest peak in the Canterbury Foothills, and east over the Canterbury Plains. Wander a bit around the summit plateau to get the best views in all directions. And to turn this already good walk into a real classic, descend off-track on the northern side of the mountain, and return along the Mt Somers Track past the spectacular Pinnacles rock formations.

It’s a pretty long walk and will require experience in snow and ice during the winter. Track notes at the end. See my post on a shorter out and back climb to the summit here

Mt Somers & The Pinnacles Circuit: The Scenery

I’ve mixed in shots from our first time up the mountain in May 2020, and the rest are from September 2021. First are some of the May shots…

Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve
Climbing through lush forest.

 

Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve
Ferns!

 

The beech trees were often covered in a black moss.

 

Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve
Sophia looks like she about to tunnel through this forest of manuka.

Now to September…

Mt Somers & Pinnacles Circuit, Canterbury
On the way up through heath vegetation, the Canterbury Plains as backdrop.

 

Mt Somers & Pinnacles Circuit, Canterbury
The snowy south face of Mt Somers.

 

Mt Somers & Pinnacles Circuit, Canterbury
The final push to the summit.

 

Mt Somers & Pinnacles Circuit, Canterbury
Nice contrast in this photo.

 

Mt Somers & Pinnacles Circuit, Canterbury
Looking back along the final ridge to the summit.

 

Mt Somers & Pinnacles Circuit, Canterbury
Mt Winterslow in the foreground, with the Old Man Range left back.

 

Mt Somers & Pinnacles Circuit, Canterbury
Mt Taylor (2333m) somewhere at the back there.

 

Mt Somers & Pinnacles Circuit, Canterbury
A panorama north.

 

Mt Somers & Pinnacles Circuit, Canterbury
Panoramic views west.

 

Mt Somers & Pinnacles Circuit, Canterbury
Looking west.

Throwing in one more from May 2020, then back to the rest from September…

Mt Somers from Sharplin Falls Reserve
Mt D’Archiac from Mt Somers. The Clent Hills in the foreground. (May 2020)

On our descent now…

Mt Somers & Pinnacles Circuit, Canterbury
Mt Winterslow (1700m).

 

Mt Somers & Pinnacles Circuit, Canterbury
First look at the what I presume are The Pinnacles.

 

Mt Somers & Pinnacles Circuit, Canterbury
More of The Pinnacles.

 

Mt Somers & Pinnacles Circuit, Canterbury
A waterfall on the Mt Somers Track.

 

Mt Somers & Pinnacles Circuit, Canterbury
A panorama of The Pinnacles, on the north side of Mt Somers.

 

Mt Somers & Pinnacles Circuit, Canterbury
Pinnacles Hut

 

Mt Somers & Pinnacles Circuit, Canterbury
The track followed Bowyers Stream for a while.

Mt Somers & Pinnacles Circuit, Canterbury

Mt Somers & Pinnacles Circuit, Canterbury
This tree has distinctive bark. I think it might be New Zealand Tree Fuchsia.

Track Notes

Mt Somers & Pinnacles Circuit, Canterbury
Walking clockwise, there’s a marked track from Sharplin Falls Reserve car park to the junction with the Mt Somers Summit Track. From there it’s a sparsely poled route to the summit. From the summit it’s easy walking past point 1595 to a rocky spur that you can take down to the Mt Somers Track. Take this back past Pinnacles Hut to the start. Some sections of this were a bit rough and involved multiple stream crossings.

Walking clockwise, there’s a marked track from Sharplin Falls Reserve car park to the junction with the Mt Somers Summit Track. From there it’s a sparsely poled route to the summit.

From the summit it’s easy walking past point 1595 to a rocky spur that you can take down to the Mt Somers Track. Take this back past Pinnacles Hut to the start. Some sections of this were a bit rough and involved multiple stream crossings. You can of course return back along the outward route from the summit, which is a shorter option. 

There’s more info on tracks in the area on the DOC website. Best allocate all day for this route. 

Pancake Rocks Circuit, Punakaiki, Westland NZ

Pancake Rocks & blow holes are an interesting tourist attraction near the small village of Punakaiki that are accessed on a very short walk.

A colleague suggested we visit Pancake Rocks near Punakaki on our drive down NZ’s West Coast. As a tourist attraction it is recommended, with a variety of interesting rock formations, often in layers, (hence the pancake reference), and also blow holes and bird nesting sites. The blow holes weren’t blowing on the day we did this walk. They kinda sucked ;-)

As a walking experience it is more akin to strolling in a city park, being very short and on a paved track. This is just one to stretch the legs on the drive up or down the coast, or if you are staying in the area.

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Porcupine Rocks, Mt Duncan & Mt Wheatley, Kosciuszko National Park

Visit the big boulders called Porcupine Rocks on this popular walk starting on the edge of Perisher Village. You can extend the walk to bag two nearby peaks, Mt Duncan (1926m) & Mt Wheatley (1877m).

The Porcupine Rocks Track is a popular walk to big boulders high up in the Ramshead Range near Perisher Village. There are views over the Thredbo Valley, about 700 to 800m below. If that’s not enough for you then you can walk off-track to nearby Mt Duncan (1926m), and along an impact track and poled route to Mt Wheatley (1877m). All walking is through attractive alpine meadows, heath and snow gums.
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Mt Stilwell Walk, Kosciuszko National Park NSW

An excellent short walk from Charlotte Pass to Mt Stilwell (2040m) for great views of the Main Range and over an alpine plateau strewn with countless boulders.

The Mt Stilwell Walk was quite a find for us, as we’d walked other routes from Charlotte Pass before without giving it much attention. It turned out to be a great short walk with views of the Main Range, and over the boulder strewn alpine plateau to the south of the summit. There were numerous wildflowers in summer which added to the appeal. You also get to bag a 2040m peak while you’re at it: bonus :-) Continue reading “Mt Stilwell Walk, Kosciuszko National Park NSW”

Waterfall Walking Track, Kosciuszko National Park NSW

The Waterfall Walking Track is a pleasant enough walk through forest to a waterfall and a collection of big boulders in Kosciuszko National Park.

The Waterfall Walking Track is is a pleasant enough walk through a variety of forest types at about 1200m of elevation in Kosciuszko National Park near Jindabynbe. As the name suggests there is a waterfall along the way, but I think the highlight is a collection of giant boulders. Not one of the glitzy alpine walks further up Kosciuszko Road but worthwhile for a change of scene.

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Bluff Mountain & Grand High Tops, Warrumbungle National Park NSW

The must do circuit walk in the Warrumbungles, taking in famous views of the Breadknife from Grand High Tops, and a visit to Bluff Mountain (1200m) where there are more great views.

The Grand High Tops Circuit with an added side trip to Bluff Mountain (1200m) is arguably the best walk in the Warrumbungles, especially for views. From Grand High Tops there are classic views of the pleasingly named rock formation, The Breadknife, which is a tall, thin and sheer slice of rock that you pass on the way up. There are also great views of nearby Crater Bluff, and of Belougery Spire, both prominent and striking hunks of rock. Continue reading “Bluff Mountain & Grand High Tops, Warrumbungle National Park NSW”