Tonic from a fi­nal slog

Lunch and rest amid splen­did iso­la­tion can be part of a suc­cess­ful as­cent in Arthur’s Pass Na­tional Park.

The Press - Escape - - 8 ESCAPE - Pat Barrett

Avalanche Peak in Arthur’s Pass Na­tional Park is di­rectly ac­ces­si­ble from the vil­lage cen­tre and can most fit­tingly be de­scribed as the ‘‘trade route’’ when it comes to climb­ing moun­tains of a mod­est na­ture in the park. That’s not to say it’s a pushover in terms of as­cend­ing sum­mits in the re­gion, just that rel­a­tively speak­ing it is eas­ily climbed by those of mod­est abil­ity on a fine day in sum­mer.

I have of­ten plugged up its steep east­ern slopes on the wellde­fined and poled track to the peak; in fact, I have even run up – most of the way – in the an­nual Avalanche Peak Chal­lenge – an en­durance event that at­tracts a large field of en­trants each year. Like many avid tram­pers, I’ve climbed it in all sea­sons and in most weathers, camped at the high tarns, tra­versed the crest to other peaks, and just wan­dered its high ridges, rev­el­ling in the view and majesty of the pass.

It took a hot sum­mer’s day, how­ever, to lure me back, af­ter an ab­sence of many years from the slopes of Avalanche – that and the al­ways agree­able loop trip over the two tracks that leave the high­way in the vil­lage and con­verge just be­low the sum­mit at 1750 me­tres.

The sum­mit it­self is 1833m, with a sub-sum­mit of 1820m just 250m to the west.

The ini­tial sec­tion of the Avalanche Peak Track (the other sec­tion of the loop is called Scotts Track) climbs a se­ries of steep rocky steps be­side deeply in­cised Avalanche Creek.

The creek presents a great spec­ta­cle as you climb, al­ter­nately of­fer­ing views of gush­ing cas­cades and quiet stream beds. At the lat­ter it is some­times pos­si­ble to de­scend into the creek, but take care; there has been more than one search on this track look­ing for those who ven­tured off route – some have never been found.

At the bush edge, tus­sock and scree mark the way ahead along an ex­cit­ing nar­row ridge crest drop­ping pre­cip­i­tously into Rough Creek to the south.

It’s nice to know you don’t have to go down there and can stay high up on the ridge and tra­verse its airy spine all the way to the large basin at the base of the sum­mit pyra­mid.

At this point the go­ing gets a lit­tle tougher as you wend your way up through large blocks to gain the sum­mit ridge and the first breath­tak­ing views of the up­per Crow Val­ley and Mt Rolle­ston. Just the tonic re­quired to forge on along the fi­nal 300m of easy rock, scram­bling to the sum­mit for a good rest from the steep slog.

My sum­mit day on this oc­ca­sion was su­perb. Warm and sunny – barely a breeze, ten­drils of cloud ca­ress­ing the west­ern peaks, and moun­tain fast­nesses all around.

Don’t ex­pect to be up here in such con­di­tions and have it to your­self, how­ever. I’ve lost count of how many tourist tram­pers I greeted on the track and again now at the top. It has been in­ter­est­ing to note many would barely re­turn the greeting, be­ing un­used to New Zealand moun­tain eti­quette.

So af­ter a brief stop, I ad­journ to Avalanche’s sis­ter sum­mit, via a steep gully and scree, to haul out my lunch and rest in splen­did iso­la­tion amid the beauty of Arthur’s Pass Na­tional Park.

Pho­tos: PAT BARRETT

Char­ac­ter­ful: Sum­mit ridge, Avalanche Peak, in Arthur’s Pass Na­tional Park.

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