Arthurs Pass

January 2017.

We were in and around Christchurch for Christmas in 2016 and managed to escape for a few days to do some tramping with Carole and Marcel. Fitness and work commitments kept us from tackling any overnight tramps, but we managed three short walks in Arthurs Pass. Driving from Christchurch to the park is such a wonderful drive once the flat plains have been left, and I did wonder if we had decided to retire to the right place by choosing the Coromandel.

Castle Hill.

These fields of strange limestone boulders are popular with climbers and tourists alike. It is a really odd bit of geology with, limestone outcrops popping up all over the place for a few square km in the middle of some big hills. The DoC carpark was full so we went on to the village itself, an odd mix of sections, retirement homes, baches and outdoor centres.

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The whole area is covered in mountain bike and walking tracks, and we wandered uphill for 90 minutes or so to sit on a flat ledge above the bush line and enjoy lunch and the view. The walk up and down was a lovely gentle climb of 300m or so and a good work out after all those beers and Christmas food. We lazed in the sun before heading downhill, content to be in the hills again.

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Arthurs Pass Track.

The next day was overcast but we headed back from Darfield. We intended to stay overnight but marcel had to get back to his swimming pool. The mountains are extremely steep here and once over the Crow river and into the pass, the only way to look is up. Today, the tops were shrouded in mist and rain threatened. We wandered round the DoC centre before heading up the valley for 4km to the top of the pass.

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This is a lovely walk through beech forest and has one very steep descent / ascent to get across a stream, before throwing you out onto tussock land as you crest the pass. There are good views back to the east and out to the west.

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We headed back to the village for chips and a beer at the Wobbly Kea. We found a room in the local motel and headed there to book in. By the time we had done this the shop was closed and we were left with nothing much for dinner. Thank goodness for the chips.

Bealey Spur.

The next day was simply gorgeous. It was cool first thing, below 10 degrees, and the mist was still floating around the tops. But there were hints of blue that suggested the cloud would burn off very quickly. We checked out, popped into the visitor centre and were asked to take an intentions book up t the hut.The track starts some way east of the valley, over the bridge at a little collection of houses at the foot of the spur. It is a well-used track which starts 500m up a road. The first few hundred meter are steep but it soon eases and the remainder of the 6km to the hut is steady, through beech forest. About halfway the track goes over a bump and gives lovely views towards the main divide and back over the river in the valley bottom.

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The hut is an old musterers hut, in a small clearing high on the spur. The bunk beds are plastic threaded onto poles, and the iron walls are not that weather proof. It was a great spot for us to sit and watch the view before heading u to the summit, an hour further on. The clouds had gone by now and it was hot with a nice cooling breeze.

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We turned round, found the car and headed back to the city. It is days like this, in perfect weather and in such beautiful hills, that make life worth living.

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