Tonic from a final slog
Lunch and rest amid splendid isolation can be part of a successful ascent in Arthur’s Pass National Park.
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.
Characterful: Summit ridge, Avalanche Peak, in Arthur’s Pass National Park.