Peak Hill was chosen as our destination as it offered a moderate climb and stunning views of the beautiful Lake Coleridge area. Being the middle of winter and there being plenty of snow about, the summit wasn't going to be an option for us as it involves a climb of about 600m vertical ascent from the foot of the hill to its summit at 1260m. Our approach was to climb to the crest of the ridge, which would enable us to look out over the southern end of Lake Coleridge and across the Rakaia River to the Hutt Range and beyond - a scenic introduction to tramping for Toby I figured.
It was a perfect winter day, blue sky and little wind, making for an enjoyable drive through inland Canterbury, passing through farmland most of the way to the foot of the hill. A crisp frost lay underfoot still, the ground sheltered from the sun by the bulk of Peak Hill, a fact I'd overlooked when planning this trip and one that caused us a little difficulty as although my tramping boots provided me with sure footing on the slippery surface, Toby's sneakers had little tread so a few adventures were to be had.
We were ready to go just before 11am, so we set out across the gentle slopes that lead from the carpark to the base of the hill itself, a nice easy start to the day yet when we reached the top of the paddocks it was surprising how much height we had already gained. Even from this low vantage point a nice view across to Lake Coleridge was already on offer, with the promise of even grander vistas higher up. The route steepens now, with poles and a well worn foot trail marking the way ahead. This trail proved a little awkward for Toby as the compressed grass was frozen solid, essentially forming a layer of ice underfoot. Easy travel was found just to the side of the trail, it just meant we had to walk a little closer to the matagouri growing on the lower slopes which brings its own challenges as those who've experienced it will know. The route is easy enough to follow, albeit steep, as it climbs directly up the western face to the ridge that leads to the summit. About halfway up we encountered snow, soft and untouched, and in places around knee deep on me. Due to the issues Toby was having on the slippery trail, we opted to take a slightly off-route, more direct line up the slope, using the untouched snow to our advantage as it offered him more grip than the icy trail. While this approach was more difficult for me as I sank in with every step, Toby's weight meant he simply glided along on top of it. Good progress was made in this way until we reached the ridgeline at about the 1000m contour just before 1pm after 2 hours on the go.
Having already decided that with so much snow about that the summit wasn't an option today we found a nice sunny spot to eat lunch and take in the views. From Lake Coleridge and its surrounding peaks, round across the Rakaia to Steepface Hill and the Hutt Range, to Redcliff Saddle and Black Hill, the views were stunning. We ate lunch and took it all in, maps were read, photos taken, before the descent had to be made. I decided to lead us down a different spur than the one we came up, thinking that descending on the icy track would be somewhat perilous for Toby. This worked well as we bounded down more untouched snow, until he spotted the marker poles and really really wanted to follow them again. This forced a tricky sidle across uneven ground but wasn't too bad, certainly not as bad as working our way back down the proper trail. Every step had Toby slipping and almost falling, with several introductions to the dreaded spaniard so a new tactic was devised where i would take a big stride and plant my boot sideways so he could slide down the trail holding my hand until his feet hit the boot - unorthodox but it worked and we reached the lower slopes without serious incident. While I strolled slowly across the farm paddocks at tramps end, delaying our departure as long as possible to make the most of the majesty around us, Toby still had the energy to sprint to the car and was eagerly waiting for me so we could go - he had been promised the camera for the drive home!
A successful introduction to tramping for Toby, and he's been persistently asking when our next one is so it must have been a good day for him too.
|Lollies in hand and all set to go - summit of Peak Hill in background|
|The first waypoint, and the end of the easy slopes - Lake Coleridge behind|
|Rest stop about halfway up - great views to be had|
|On top of the ridge, perfect spot for lunch - Black Hill (2067m) in the background|
|Enjoying lunch and the stunning scenery across Coleridge to the Big Ben Range|
|Rakaia River and the Black Hill Range|
|Redcliff Saddle, between the Hutt and Black Hill Ranges - Shingle Hill (1873m) just right of centre|
|Craigieburn Range - Mt Enys (2194m) at left, Porter Heights ski field on other side of the range|
|Still with energy to burn - a sprint to the car|
|Crown Copyright - Land Information NZ|
Access: Take SH72 towards the Rakaia Gorge and follow road signs to Lake Coleridge and Algidus Rd. Peak Hill is signposted along the way, and there is a DOC signpost at the carpark area. Keep to the marked route, all surrounding areas are private land.
Time: 2hrs to the summit
Map: BW20 Lake Coleridge