However, a patchy week of wet weather scuppered that idea, with the prospect of soft snow being enough to have me looking elsewhere. I opted for Broken Hill, an island summit of sorts directly across the highway from Hamilton Peak, and at 1486m it stands over 400m lower than the main range so although hoping for some snow, there would be much less, making travel far easier and safer.
Four of us made the trip over Porters Pass and into the Castle Hill basin, leaving behind low cloud and rain, but expecting better weather once over the pass with the south-easterly weather system. Indeed it seemed as though Broken Hill was going to be the place to be, with cloud gripping the tops of the Torlesse and Craigieburn Ranges around our location but clearing skies above Broken Hill.
Having parked at the foot of the Broken River skifield road, we crossed the road and hopped over the farm gate almost directly across. Broken Hill is on private land, and permission to climb it is required from Flock Hill Station.
Flock Hill Station has a long history, starting out as part of the original Craigieburn run first taken up by Joseph Pearson in 1857. In 1917 when leases ran out, Craigieburn was divided into 3 smaller runs and auctioned off, one of these being what is now Flock Hill. The Millikens of Castle Hill (an adjacent station) bought the Flock Hill run and it was subsequently purchased by the Urquhart family who owned the station for many years. Nowadays, there is an extensive side business to the station, with a lodge and accommodation available for those wanting a high country experience. Remains of the old homestead still rest nearby, offering historical interest.
We followed a good vehicle track round the south side of the mountain for a short while before it turned uphill and we started the climb. The track climbed moderately steeply, making its way up the lower slopes west of the main ridge.
After 40 minutes or so we entered the burnt zone. In January 2015, a large fire started on the bush covered slopes on the west/northwest of Broken Hill. The fire raged for days, fanned by warm, strong winds, and threatened to jump the highway into what is more extensive bush on the Craigieburn Range. Had it done so, the results would have been disastrous. Around 350 hectares were affected, and we saw some of the damage first hand as we passed through blackened trees and charred stumps.
After a further short distance along the vehicle track, the burnt trees thinned out and it was time to leave the track and start angling up towards a saddle on the ridgeline, which sits at around 1060m altitude (reference BW21 987208). It was easy going as we sidled our way up, passing by some interesting tree specimens along the way.
We regrouped on the saddle and contemplated the route ahead. In front of us, the ridge rose sharply, but beyond the short, steep section the map indicated it would be pretty easy going once on the tops.
We set out up the daunting looking ridge, and found it to be far easier than it looked and without too much fuss we gained flatter ground and a well earned snack stop.
Ahead of us were pleasant tussock tops, gently rolling in nature. As we set out along the ridge to the marked trig at Pt 1355m we were met by a chilly wind, a reminder of how exposed it can be on the open tops.
We quickly arrived at the trig, snapping a few photos of the expanding views which now took in the country north of Broken Hill over Lake Pearson and into the eastern reaches of Arthur's Pass National Park.
From Pt 1355m, the ridge takes a turn eastwards and we enjoyed easy travel over Pt 1408m. As we wandered along here we had good views down onto Flock Hill Station, its' well manicured fields standing out in what is otherwise a quite barren landscape.
We were now on the lookout for a sheltered spot for lunch, and found the perfect spot just east of Pt 1408m, nestled in behind a large rock with ample room for the four of us to relax. We sat, talked, and ate, all the while enjoying the views over Lakes Pearson and Grasmere and surrounding mountains, most of which were draped in cloud - we were certainly in one of the best spots!
Refueled, we set out on the final leg round to Broken Hill. There was only one short climb of any great substance before we swung south and over a couple of small bumps on the ridge before reaching the summit of Broken Hill.
Broken Hill is a curious summit, standing at 1486m high, midway along the snaking ridge. However it's not the highest point on the ridge, that being a spot height further to the south-east at 1578m. Broken Hill is, though, the point from which everything seems to radiate, with ridges and spurs leading off in all directions, and all the main waterways draining the various aspects of Broken Hill. I had intended to carry on to Pt 1578m, but we decided that for this day, Broken Hill was far enough.
Being an island summit of sorts (in that the cluster of summits is set apart from the main ranges), the summit offered views in all directions, although many of the peaks and ranges surrounding us were cloaked in thick cloud. Despite the cloud, the views were still superb, with the cloud creating some dramatic lighting.
After posing for the obligatory summit photos, we were on the move again. Always keen for a different way back to the car, we decided to descend the broad spur leading west off the summit. Reasonable scree gave us a fast descent down to where the ridge flattened out near Pt 1281m, with the main stops on the way down being to photograph the interesting rock outcrops and to try capture the amazing light across the Castle Hill basin. Rodney provided the subject in one instance as he scrambled up onto an impressive rock, making a striking picture with the snow capped Craigieburns in behind him.
Beyond Pt 1281m, the ridge flattened out, with just some small rocky sections to negotiate, which we did easily. It was a fun ridge to traverse, with quite steep drops on either side creating a feeling a space all round, but broad enough not to be walking on a knife edge.
We ambled along happily until we reached the end of the flat ridge, overlooking the rock features and area that were a large part of the first Narnia movie, 'The Loin, The Witch, and The Wardrobe'.
After another quick snack stop and a check of the map to sort out our descent, we set off again. From the end of the ridge, we followed a narrowing spur down towards the bushline, at which point we intended to skirt along the edge of the bush to connect up with the vehicle track again. As we reached the bush edge it became apparent that things on the ground were slightly different to the map, with extensive pine on the hillside around the beech. It was going to be a bush bash down to the track. The pine was thick so we decided to try the beech, and were pleased to find it to be about as open a beech forest as one could hope to find! As such, we made good progress down, following good animal trails through the bush until we emerged from the beech only to be confronted by dense pine. It looked as though we would have to tackle it regardless, but unfortunately here we turned right (west). Before we'd gone too far though, Janey raised the question of our location and, with the aid of her iPad loaded with topomaps and GPS signal, informed us we were too far west...so back we went, passing the point we exited the beech and on along the edge where the beech met the pine.
Then, the magical moment as we broke through into thinner pine to find ourselves stepping onto the vehicle track.
From there it was a straight forward, albeit long, wander along the farm track and back to the car, a wander that seemed to go on and on. As we meandered along, our thoughts drifting to the comforts of the car, we were able to gaze up on our route from earlier in the day, and conclude that we'd had another great day in the mountains.
|Starting the climb to Broken Hill|
|Gaining height on the vehicle track|
|Entering the burnt zone|
|Fire damaged trees on the lower western flank|
|Looking ahead to the saddle and steep climb that would take us onto the tops|
|Leaving the track to start angling up to the saddle|
|Some interesting specimens to be found|
|Rodney climbing to the saddle|
|Another interesting subject|
|Alison approaching the saddle, with Mt Cloudesley (2107m) centre background|
|The stream draining the western slopes of Broken Hill - rugged terrain down there!|
|On the saddle looking up the line of ascent|
|Starting the steep climb up the ridge|
|A quick pit stop partway up the ridge|
|Looking back down into the fire zone|
|At the top of the steep ridge, looking along pleasant tops to Pt 1355m|
|The view across to Broken Hill|
|Mt Wall (1874m, left), Broken River ski basin, and Hamiton Peak (1922m, right, in cloud)|
|The view north from Pt 1355m to Lake Pearson, with eastern Arthur's Pass NP smothered in cloud|
|Rodney at Pt 1355m, with Mt Manson (1859m) above him|
|View across to the peaks around Broken River & Craigieburn ski areas|
|Rodney dealing to some wilding pines along the way|
|The fertile fields of Flock Hill Station, tucked beneath Purple Hill (1680m)|
|Looking up Winding Creek which runs around the north of Broken Hill|
|Someone's been having fun down there!|
|Looking into the head of the catchment draining the western slopes of Broken Hill. The ridge we climbed to gain the tops is the one leaving frame right|
|Photographers at work|
|Lunch over, time to head for the summit|
|Cloud obliterating what would be great views up into the land behind Mt White|
|Rata Stream - a short, rugged little catchment draining the east of Broken Hill|
|On the summit of Broken Hill (1486m)|
|Purple Hill (1680m, left) and Mt St Bernard (1518m), taken from Broken Hill summit|
|Myself on the summit of Broken Hill|
|Starting our descent down a spur running west off the summit|
|Rock formations around Flock Hill proper - an area used extensively in filming the first Narnia film|
|Reasonable scree gave a fast descent down to where the ridge flattened out|
|Back across to our line onto Pt 1355m, the steep climb dropping out of frame left|
|Rodney atop his rock, with Mt Wall immediately left of him|
|Torlesse Range - covered in thick cloud all day|
|The ridge we followed on our way down|
|Un-named stream draining Broken Hill's southern aspect - looks a good route out also|
|There were a few fun rock sections along the ridge|
|Easy travel along the ridge|
|Rodney heading along our descent ridge|
|A closer view of the rock formations around Flock Hill|
|Descending a steeper section as we drop to bushline|
|Nice open beech forest meant it was less of a bush bash than expected|