"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

10 May 2020

Mt Grey/Maukatere - 31 August 2019

A warm, sunny afternoon and not a lot to do around home made the ideal recipe for a spur of the moment half day tramp. Mt Grey/Maukatere (hereafter referred to as Mt Grey) was the objective, chosen primarily because it had been probably a good 30-odd years since I had climbed it, but also because it's only a short distance from where I call home these days.

With only the afternoon up my sleeve, I decided to park at Lake Janet, a small, quite attractive lake with a walkway around its perimeter that's nestled alongside the forest road that provides access to the usual starting point. Take care on the road in as it is an active forestry road. Parking at the lake not only saved a bit of driving but also meant I started walking higher up the mountain, meaning less climbing and a quicker trip.
The track led straight into the forest and the warmth of the day was immediately evident. The forest seemed to trap the heat beneath its canopy but the rustle of leaves higher in the trees gave hope of a cooling breeze once above the bushline. The track climbed steadily, zig-zagging up the fairly steep hillside at a pleasant gradient.
I left the bush after around 20 minutes or so and was pleased to encounter a wonderfully refreshing breeze. A few more zigs and zags later I reached the lookout that's sited on an open shoulder not too far from the summit ridge. It's quite a large building, visible from Rangiora and surrounding areas especially when the sun reflects off it, which commands superb views over much of the Waimakariri district and beyond. Even a stroll this far would be well worth the effort.

From the lookout a choice of routes to the summit is on offer. One route follows the vehicle track up to the ridge line and on to Mt Grey, passing the large mast along the way. The alternative is to take the tramping track which sidles below the ridge line on the eastern side before climbing onto the ridge crest shortly before the Mt Grey summit. Finding vehicle tracks a little dull, I chose the latter option. The tramping track was in excellent condition and made for easy travel, as well as giving good views out to the coast.

An hour after setting out I reached the summit, and was pleasantly surprised to find that despite a large number of vehicles in the car park, I had the summit to myself.
Mt Grey (933m) is named after Sir George Grey, Governor of New Zealand in the mid 19th century in the early days of colonial settlement. Maori named the mountain Maukatere, meaning 'floating mountain', believing that the spirits of their dead departed from the summit on their journey to Cape Reinga in the far north.
The view from the summit was stunning, encompassing the full 360°. The eye roved from Pegasus Bay around taking in Banks Peninsula, the Port Hills, the Mt Hutt, Torlesse, and Puketeraki Ranges, and numerous more to the north, which appeared like rows of teeth stretching away as far as the eye could see. In fact the entire sweep of the Puketeraki Range could be seen, from Mt Oxford all the way north to the Hurunui River. And of course as with any of the foothills in this area, the chequer board expanse of the Canterbury Plains lay below.

I spent a leisurely half hour on the summit enjoying the sun and the mountain scenery. Butterflies flitted around in abundance, and there was even birdsong in the air - wonderful!
My time in solitude was interrupted by another party approaching the summit so I decided to start my descent and leave them to enjoy their own summit moment to themselves.
It was a very cruisy stroll back to the car, initially following the vehicle track so as to check out the massive communications mast along the way - quite an impressive sight up close. An uneventful trip down had me back at the car in 45 minutes, in plenty of time to stop for coffee in Amberley before heading home.

Note: the following photos are not great! Taken on my cheap phone.

Looking out over the vast forest in the Mt Grey area

Approaching the lookout

Forestry roads snake all over the hillsides here

Mt Grey summit trig, looking inland to the snow capped Mt Hutt and Torlesse Ranges

The view back along the ridge to the vast communications mast

Had to take a selfie since I was using my phone

The undulating tops south of the Mt Grey summit, Port Hills in the distance

More summit views, looking west this time

Surveying the descent route, along the ridge and down the vehicle track just visible at rear

Looking east/northeast over the jumbled ground of the Mt Grey Downs

Passing the communications set up on my descent

Parting view of the summit before swinging round a bend

The commanding view on offer at the lookout

Crown Copyright - Land Information NZ

Access: From Amberley, take Douglas Rd then Cramptons Bush Rd which leads into the forested area. Take care on the roads as commercial forestry is actively carried out. The road in can be closed in times of high fire danger or when commercial operations dictate, contact Rayonier 03 310 7612.

Time: Lake Janet to Mt Grey summit 1hr, return 45mins

Map: BW23 Cust, BV23 Virginia

Hut: None 

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