Mackenzies Peak

Easter 2017

You wouldn’t have seen this one on the program: the two-day trip was planned as a private trip with just me and a friend. But we were very happy when five “gatecrashers” from PTC joined us on account of unsuitable weather for their NW Nelson trip. We did invite them!

Mackenzies Peak (2200m) lies just west of the lower end of Lake Pukaki, above the headwaters of the Twizel River. At this time of year it is a big pile of rocks, but I am told the area is great for heliskiing and ski touring in winter. From the summit there are awesome views towards the big peaks in the Mt Cook area, as well as a whole panorama of the interesting peaks in the Dobson, Hopkins and Huxley valleys.

On the summit rocks with view of Hopkins valley peaks

Access involved a 9km drive over a very rough 4WD track to Baikie Hut. This requires picking up a key from Pukaki Downs Station and paying a fee to them. Our vehicles were only just up to the task. Ideally use a large vehicle with plenty of ground clearance if you wish to dodge the long walk in from the Mount Cook road. We had travelled from Christchurch Sunday morning, then lunched at Baikie Hut. Walking up Duncan Stream, the warm afternoon sunshine showcased the beautiful Mackenzie Country tussock landscape to perfection, and 4 hours later we arrived at the big tarn at 1335m. Its beach was our campsite for the night, vaulted over by a velvet sky with myriad stars, familiar constellations and later a full, bright moon.

Camping by the tarn.

Next day we excitedly climbed above the tarn through tussock, then rock-fields studded with emerald green tarns to the summit. Easter Bunny made a timely appearance and delivered some eggs about here! He hopped away before I could snap a photo of him.

At 1900m we dropped our packs, choosing the very steep, loose, blocky scree of the north face for the final ascent. With towering gendarmes above us and the constant threat of loose rocks becoming dislodged by our feet, we had to be vigilant as we climbed. Excitement and relief surfaced as we emerged onto the summit at midday. Luckily there was a very easy exit route down gentle slopes on the western flank of the peak with interesting views into Irishman’s Creek, a Dobson tributary. Tarn to summit: about 4 hrs with full packs on.

To return to the cars we traversed the high ridge which lies just east of Mackenzie Stream, over points 1945, 1959, 1725 and 1188. It was very scenic and enjoyable except for a trying traverse to sidle onto it from near the small tarn just NE of the summit.

This was a great trip in a new area for most of us and we came out mountain high. We were Trevor, Diane, Yvette, John, Derek, Merv and Gary (Diane Mellish)