The Marquee from Cameron Hut, Arrowsmith Range, Canterbury NZ

The challenging climb of The Marquee (2421m) gives ‘entry level’ access to the Arrowsmith Range & all the alpine grandeur that comes with it.

The Marquee from Cameron Hut, Arrowsmith Range

The challenging climb of The Marquee (2421m), in Canterbury’s Arrowsmith Range, offers a real experience of alpine grandeur. You get panoramic views of multiple glaciated peaks in the Arrowsmith Range, which tops out at Mt Arrowsmith (2780m). In other directions you lord it over many high mountain ranges, and the upstream Rakaia River snakes away to the north-east.

For mountaineers, climbing The Marquee along the south ridge is a straightforward, non-technical climb. However, for mere mortals it represents a challenging scramble along a 2km ridge of broken rock, with some real exposure to keep things interesting. You’ll be kept busy mentally and physically as you navigate around obstacles on this section.

Before this you need to find your way from Cameron Hut across the fast flowing, glacier fed Cameron River. (Fast flowing in mid-summer at least, perhaps not in winter).  Then up about 700 vertical metres of steep scree slope. But you will be amply rewarded by the views all along the ridge to the summit. And you get to brag of summitting a proper Southern Alps peak.

Route notes at the end.

The Marquee from Cameron Hut: The Scenery

Cameron Hut Route, Hakatere Conservation Park
Cameron Hut at sunrise.
Cameron Hut Route, Hakatere Conservation Park
I counted six kea around me as I walked towards the Cameron River, on my way to The Marquee. They were regular visitors over the two nights we were there.
Cameron Hut Route, Hakatere Conservation Park
A juvenile kea apparently.
The Marquee from Cameron Hut, Arrowsmith Range
Climbing the scree slope here. Cameron hut is down there centre left.
The Marquee from Cameron Hut, Arrowsmith Range
The Cameron Valley, which you climb up for access to this walk. (Or at least that’s the shortest access).
The Marquee from Cameron Hut, Arrowsmith Range
The beginnings of the ridge. Very rugged. That bulk at the back isn’t even the summit, which was still a way off.
The Marquee from Cameron Hut, Arrowsmith Range
I didn’t like the look of some of this. To overcome some uncertainty/ anxiety, I broke down the way ahead into sections. I estimated 20 minutes to get to that high point on the right, then 15 mins for the ugly looking climb on broken rock, then 5-10 mins to reach 2346m (centre). This plan kept me focussed and I was reassuringly accurate.
The Marquee from Cameron Hut, Arrowsmith Range
I didn’t expect to see this lake, which wasn’t marked on the map. A very nice splash of alpine colour. In the background to the right somewhere is Mt Taylor, the previous highest mountain I had climbed.
The Marquee from Cameron Hut, Arrowsmith Range
The Potts Range to the left, and Mt Arrowsmith to the right. Views of Mt Arrowsmith are a highlight of the excellent climb up Mt Potts, which we had done three years earlier.
The Marquee from Cameron Hut, Arrowsmith Range
Here’s the summit!
The Marquee from Cameron Hut, Arrowsmith Range
Views starting to get pretty spesh.

The Marquee from Cameron Hut, Arrowsmith Range

The Marquee from Cameron Hut, Arrowsmith Range
Views from the summit of The Marquee (2421m). I think the highest in view is Jagged Peak (2706m).
The Marquee from Cameron Hut, Arrowsmith Range
A wide panorama from the summit looking NW.
The Marquee from Cameron Hut, Arrowsmith Range
The Rakaia River
The Marquee from Cameron Hut, Arrowsmith Range
The Rakaia River to the right. Upstream from the sections I’m used to seeing.
The Marquee from Cameron Hut, Arrowsmith Range
Mt Arrowsmith (2780m) and the South Cameron Glacier.
The Marquee from Cameron Hut, Arrowsmith Range
These peaks in the foreground are unnamed.
The Marquee from Cameron Hut, Arrowsmith Range
I think the peak in the centre is North Peak (2628m).
The Marquee from Cameron Hut, Arrowsmith Range
Looking past the ridge to the Potts Range and Mt Arrowsmith.

Video from the summit…

Heading back here…

The Marquee from Cameron Hut, Arrowsmith Range
Lots of colour with the turquoise lake and pink scree.
The Marquee from Cameron Hut, Arrowsmith Range
Another wide panorama NW from the ridge.
The Marquee from Cameron Hut, Arrowsmith Range
The Cameron River emerges from the Cameron Glacier moraine.

Route Notes

The Marquee from Cameron Hut, Arrowsmith Range
Walk up river to cross safely, across the moraine, then climb almost 700 vertical metres on scree. Finally, there’s 2km of regular scrambling on broken rock to traverse the ridge and gain the summit.

Cameron hut Route

Cameron Hut is situated in a spectacular setting at the head of the Cameron Valley, with the Arrowsmith Range towering overhead. It’s a 16km walk up the valley from near Hakatere Heron Road in the Ashburton Lakes District. See my blog post on that route here. And you can jump straight to DOC info on the hut here.

The Marquee

I did this walk in January and the route was entirely snow free.

Crossing the Cameron River

From Cameron Hut you’ll need to first cross the Cameron River. This was wide and fast flowing enough in summer that I had to walk at least 1km up stream to a point were the river split into three channels. (Dotted line on my map becaause I didn’t note exactly where I was). There were a few boulders to hop across so that I didn’t need to chance stepping in the river and getting knocked off my feet. And these rocks were mercifully grippy, even the wet ones.

I’m not very experienced at crossing rivers, but another experienced tramper I know also had to take this detour to cross safely. Take note where you crossed for the return journey. I didn’t take note carefully enough and wasted time finding the spot again on the way back. From here climb over ridges of moraine to the base of the mountain.

I took about an hour to get to the mountain, and because I missed my crossing spot I took a similar time on the way back. You should be able to save time here.

Scree Slope and South-West Ridge

Begin the steep climb up not very pleasant scree to gain the ridge. It took me about 1.5 hours up and an hour back down.

The ridge traverse is never more than a scramble, but you scramble a lot, and almost always on crumbly rock, so take care. There are sections of exposure, but even when not exposed it wouldn’t take much to lose your balance or slip and fall, or to dislodge a rock onto your climbing partner’s head. (A helmet would be good idea).

My wife Sophia wasn’t keen on this climb and stayed back at the hut. Doing it by myself was a bit intimidating and I had many decisions to make about how to navigate around obstacles on the ridge – over, besides, or down and back up. I sometimes found it harder on the way back, but descending was still faster. I took roughly 2 hours on the way up, and a little less on the way back (maybe 1:30-45?).

So an 8 hour day plus time for food and photos. I had considered walking back to our car that afternoon but didn’t have time, and I don’t think my body would have appreciated it anyway. We walked out the next morning and spent a relaxing night in the hut, just the two of us.

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

3 thoughts on “The Marquee from Cameron Hut, Arrowsmith Range, Canterbury NZ”

  1. Inspiring post. Thanks for all the information, photos and advice.We’re now planning to climb it (Frank’s second ascent) but in early winter so the rocks are tethered and hopefully with a homogenous single layer of hard snow for fast travel and low avalanche risk with the river low enough to boulder hop across.

    Indeed that is Jagged Peak with Upham, one 1m lower and Tower Pk alongside. We attempted North Peak from Reischek Col via the Jagged Stream, one autumn which made for easy travel down the Rakaia but an evil tottering pile of choss to traverse which forced a retreat. No doubt about a kea with a yellow ceres and eye ring being a young ‘un! Those are the ones you have to watch…

    1. Thanks Honora. Yes, I’ve seen pics from a winter or spring ascent (somebody called Nina Dickerhof). I wondered if that would reduce risk, for those with the skills.

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