"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

8 September 2016

Mt Sunday, Hakatere Conservation Park - 9 July 2016

While not physically demanding, a trip to Mt Sunday is still a worthwhile outing. The drive on its own is an experience to savour as it passes through first the beautiful Ashburton Lakes region before taking you deep into the majestic Canterbury high country.

Our 7 year old, Lincoln, had been champing at the bit to go on his first 'solo' tramp with me, so Mt Sunday was chosen to suit his little legs, enabling him to climb a mountain as per his request. The views on offer were enough to interest me, on top of the enjoyment of a day out with my son.

We set off early on a fine, frosty, blue sky morning. I resisted the usual coffee stop at the Mt Somers Store, saving that for the trip home when an ice cream might be in order, and we forged our way inland. The road seal ended at the historic Hakatere Station buildings and here we had the choice of turning right, which would take us to Lake Heron, and to continue on ahead. The latter was where we needed to go so on we went. The gravel road is wide and well maintained, perhaps an indication of the level of traffic it receives, and we cruised along quite happily through the Ashburton Lakes, passing first Lakes Emma and Roundabout (not visible from the road) and then on past Lake Camp and Lake Clearwater with its' collection of baches.

Beyond the lakes the road was a little rougher but still good and as we rounded Harpers Knob the best view of the drive was revealed - the broad expanse of the Rangitata River and on up the Havelock Valley, with Mt D'Archiac rising like a great white tooth in the upper valley.
Mt Sunday was not too far from here and we were soon in the carpark ready to set off, but not before we'd stopped to meet some friendly horses near Mt Potts Station.

The tramp itself is a straightforward stroll, initially along a vehicle track in the riverbed (damp in places). Poles mark the route and trampers are asked to stick to the poled route as the surrounding land is private. A footbridge across a small braid of the river enabled us to keep our feet dry, then a little further on a larger, and swifter, braid was encountered. Here a swing bridge has been constructed, as well as some information panels. Lincoln endeavoured to spot one of the fish the panels mentioned but the water was flowing far too swiftly to allow him to see anything much.

Once across the bridges, a short wander across grassland led us to the base of Mt Sunday. Here the climb began, it was short but moderately steep with the occasional frosty section to keep us on our toes. Lincoln practically skipped up though and was soon approaching his first summit, a modest one yes, but still an achievement.

The location of Mt Sunday, set down in the riverbed, gives one the feeling of being in an amphitheatre of peaks, with high ranges on all sides. Up the valley, the Havelock and Clyde Rivers marched down from the Southern Alps, merging just upstream from Mt Sunday to form the Rangitata River. On one side of the valley sits Mt Potts, while over 6km away across the valley the Black Mountain Range rises. It was an alpine spectacle to just sit and savour, which we were more than happy to do while enjoying lunch at the same time. It was a small taste of what Sunday lunches for the mustering gangs and their families would have been like, although given the Rangitata's reputation for wind I'm sure that not all their meetings would have occurred in such benign conditions. That warning stands for visitors - be prepared, as Mt Sunday is completely exposed to the elements.

With lunch over there was little more to do than take a few photos of each other before making our way back to the car, and of course that ice cream stop at Mt Somers!

The upper Rangitata River and the view up the Havelock Valley
Stopped to say hi to these two, near Mt Potts Station

Lincoln couldn't help but stomp his way through the frozen puddles

Crossing the footbridge, Mt Sunday is the rocky lump in behind

Looking for fish in this swift braid

Following along the backbone of Mt Sunday

Reaching the summit of Mt Sunday

Great spot for lunch

Looking up the Clyde Valley

Rangitata headwaters - Havelock River (left) and the Clyde heading off to the right

Looking across the wide Rangitata valley to the Black Mountain Range

The view up the Havelock River to Mt D'Archiac (2875m)

Cloudy Peak (2403m), viewed from the summit of Mt Sunday

Our moment on the summit

Lincoln's turn with the camera!

Wouldn't be a visit to a trig without a pose beside it!

Starting our descent

The rock bluffs of Mt Sunday

Crossing back over the swing bridge

Parting shot as we head back to the car


Access: From Mt Somers Village head inland on Ashburton Gorge Rd. At the historic Hakatere Homestead the road changes to gravel. From here, continue straight ahead, passing Lakes Camp and Clearwater before crossing the Potts River (bridged). The Mt Sunday carpark is signposted a little further along the road. If you reach Erewhon Station at the end of the road, you've gone too far! 

Time: Carpark to summit 45mins (at a leisurely pace)

Map: BX18 Lake Clearwater

Hut: None


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