Skip to content

open mind, empty stomach

travel, food, and fun

One of the few things I really wanted to do in New Zealand was visit a glacier. I hoped to check out the Franz Josef Glacier after Christchurch and before Queenstown. Outdoor activities in New Zealand are weather dependent, especially in the winter, and, this time, the weather did not cooperate. I was forced to choose between Milford Sound and Franz Josef and went for the later for a variety of reasons. This allowed me to stay in ChCh a few extra days, one of which I used for a trip to Arthur’s Pass.

Arthur’s Pass is one of three passes through the Southern Alps and is loaded with scenic walking tracks. The weather was absolutely perfect for July; it was cold, but there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Due to relying on the bus for transportation, I only had about 6 hours at the Pass. That was enough time to hike to the top of Avalanche Peak, a very steep and demanding 1833m mountain, as well as check out Devil’s Punchbowl Waterfall, a respectable 131m drop.

It was great having ABEL TASMAN nearly all to myself a week earlier, but on this day Avalanche Peak was all mine! While was cool, there was a slight cause for concern to be going on such a walk alone. Having a cold and not feeling so hot didn’t help matters, but I made it to the top and had a great time.

As I said, it’s a very steep walk. You’re also climbing up and over a lot of rock. Until you hit the alpine layer, the walk takes you through beautiful native beech forest. You pass by a few decent sized waterfalls and may see some kea, the largest mountain parrots in the world. I was lucky enough to have one drop in and hang out with me for a few minutes.

Being winter, the alpine zone had snow coverage. My vibrams had never seen snow before, so it was exciting for them. They held up well and my toes didn’t freeze off. The mountain seemed to get steeper as I ascended and I knew that going down would be interesting. The view from the top was incredible and it was a great feeling of accomplishment to climb a mountain. I ended up using my jacket as a sled to get down some of the tricky areas during the descent.

I usually fly back down from elevation, but the slope and rocky terrain made going down take nearly as long as the ascent. It took just over 4 hours return and I was left with enough time to check out nearby Devil’s Punchbowl Falls. The waterfall was big and beautiful and took about 45 minutes return.

Arthur’s Pass was incredible and I thoroughly enjoyed my short, but highly active, time there. There are more hikes in the area that I would have liked to have done, but was satisfied with Avalanche Peak and seeing the falls. It’s definitely worth exploring as a day trip from Christchurch or as a stopover when crossing the Southern Alps.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


%d bloggers like this: