"You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you" - Isaiah 55:12

26 April 2015

St James Range - 9 August 2014

This was part of a day outing with a group of young boys from the ICONZ adventure group I help out with here in Oxford.

We had spent a few weeks making some sleds with the boys, and when done we took them to the snow to try them out. It's not been a great winter for the ski fields this year and the Hanmer Springs Ski Area we went to was officially closed. However, they were only too happy for us to have a play and with some fresh snow having fallen a couple of days before, we headed on up to check it out.

After ferrying the boys up in the one vehicle we had capable of negotiating the access road, we were all set for some fun by late morning. However, some of the boys weren't prepared for just how cold it can be up in an alpine environment. This, coupled with the fact that they'd ignored advice and gotten their 'dry' boots all wet playing in the creek at the foot of the access road, meant that within half an hour they were all tucked away in the lodge in front of the fire after having maybe 1 run each on their sleds!!

I wasn't about to miss the opportunity to explore the tops above the ski field so set off up to the crest of the main range with the expectation of grand views. Although I'd taken my ice axe and crampons they weren't necessary as the snow was fresh and soft, with only the axe coming off my pack just as a precautionary measure, and for balance in the soft snow.
It was only around a 200m height gain required to reach the top of the range and in an easy 20 minutes of climbing I was there, atop the St James Range. The views, as expected, were superb, looking north and west across much of the St James Conservation Area. It would have been fun, with more time, to have traversed the ridge top from here, as some points higher up would no doubt have commanded even better views - another day perhaps.

Exploring at the foot of the access road

Starting my climb up to the saddle, looking down to the ski lodge

Minimal snow cover made for an easy climb, the saddle at 1550m is at the right of image

Following an easy line up to the saddle

Gaining height, protruding rocks would have made skiing rather treacherous!

On the saddle looking north-east to the Crimea Range, Pt 1562m is the rocky point on the right

Wind-sculpted snow formations on the saddle
Looking north across to more peaks on the St James Range, Mt Willmer (1802m) and Pollock (1777m) in my line of view, with the Spenser Mountains in the far background

Descending back to the lodge, Hanmer Springs in behind the mountain range at rear

Looking back up to the saddle

Waiting for our ride back down the mountain

Crown Copyright - Land Information NZ

Access: From Hanmer Springs, drive over Jacks Pass and turn left at the bottom of the pass towards St James Homestead. Follow signs up to the Amuri Ski Field. Chains & 4WD likely required in winter. Permission required to access the ski field.

Time: Lodge to saddle 1550m 20-30mins (depending on conditions)

Map: BT24 Ada Flat

Hut: None, although the ski field lodge can be hired and can accommodate around 40 (I think!, check with ski staff)

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