Mt Arthur Summit (almost), Kahurangi National Park2024 01 01 Mt Arthur

Monday 01 January 2024

What better way to kick off the New Year, than standing on top of one of the tallest peaks in Kahurangi National Park! At 1795m, Mt Arthur is the fourth highest, and being non-technical (in summer) and easily accessible, it’s a very popular trekking peak.

Nineteen of us rolled up bright and early at Flora Saddle carpark on New Years Day to find parking was already at a premium. After a quick team-talk, we set off up the wide and manicured shingle track to Mt Arthur Hut. 

After morning tea at the hut, the group split off into nine people in a faster/throw-in-a-side-trip group led by Pete, and the rest into a slower/just-get-there-direct group led by Diane. However once above the bushline and out of the shelter of the forest, the ferocity and frigidness of the wind soon split the slower group, with four carrying on and six turning back for a leisurely day in the warmer lower climes.

Snugly rugged up, our group of four headed up the mountain in the stiff wind, unable to see the summit due to a heavy shroud of cloud. We took turns to repeat the mantra “it’s going to burn off soon; I’m sure it’ll be clear when we get there”.

We steadily made our way up, firstly through the tussock, and then the scree and marble slopes, stopping to photograph alpine orchids and a big expanse of South Island Edelweiss. 

We passed the turnoff to Gordons Pyramid at Horseshoe Basin, and then just below Winter Peak at the Ellis Basin turnoff we were in the thick of the cloud and encountered a sub-group of the longer group making their way down. The rest of their group were doing a there-and-back side foray across the tops above Ellis Basin.

We huddled in a grassy pot hole at the Ellis turnoff to eat our lunch, and after a short while the remnants of the longer group emerged through the mist and joined us in the hole. 

That cloud was just not moving tho! and reports from summiteers coming down were it was blowing a gale, bitterly cold and a bit icy, with zero views. So everyone was perfectly happy to abandon the summit bid - just 300m short.

Our blended group of ten made our way smartly back down the mountain. The wind gradually dropped and the sun came out, and we stopped for a break on a tussock slope to enjoy the fabulous view out over Tasman Bay. Looking behind us, we could see the cloud slowly lifting off the summit. Oh well.

On our way again, we left the open tops at Mt Arthur Hut and breezed on down through the forest to our starting point at Flora Saddle carpark. It was now absolutely chocka-block, with cars parked for a very long way down the side of the Graham Valley Road.

Whilst we didn’t achieve our summit objective, we had an invigorating walk and everyone was enthusiastic about their day. Plus that mountain isn’t going anywhere - we’ll be back!

We were: Diane (leader and scribe), Pete (co-leader), Simon, Joy, Marian, Karen, Yumi, Ken, Tony, Julie, Dean, Liz, Marian, Rosie-Anne, Richard, Angela, Neeve, Penny and Shari.