When we arrived in Wanaka yesterday we limited ourselves to a stroll around part of Lake Wanaka (although it was still six miles). Today we thought we would do something more ambitious drawn from the Department of Conservation leaflet of walks in the area.
We drove out of town and followed the lake shore along the Mount Aspiring road, reaching the car park for the walk after 12 km. You start by following a nondescript track which winds upwards to reach Diamond Lake, a circular glacial lake. It was quite cloudy at first and this picture of the path, and the one of the lake above, was taken on the way down.
From here a series of steps, 300 or more ....
... lead up to a viewing platform above the lake. There are great views towards mountains on three sides. The challenge was to get mountains, sky and lake into the same shot.
Onwards and upwards to emerge onto a sort of upland prairie, with views over Lake Wanaka
Now there was a choice between the western and eastern routes to the top. We opted for the western route which involved a steep, sustained climb to reach a new higher plateau and finally the peak. Looking back, there was a fine view towards Mount Aspiring in the background, with rock formations known, rather imaginatively it seems to me, as rochers moutonnees (sheep rocks) - "A roche moutonnée is a rock hill shaped by the passage of ice to give a smooth up-ice side and a rough, plucked and cliff-girt surface on the down-ice side. The upstream surface is often marked with striations." (Courtesy of a site about landforms in Scotland).
In the other direction, there are fantastic views over Lake Wanaka, with one of its islands, Mou Tapu, to the left and the mouth of the Matukituki River in the foreground. The way in which the mouth of the river is being silted up by sediment is very clear.
Half-right there is another great view over the lake.
A bit later, while we were just sitting on the summit, enjoying the views, the cloud lifted and the summit of Mount Aspiring / Tititea appeared. At 3,033 metres it is New Zealand's highest outside the 20 or so in the Aoraki / Mount Cook national park. We supposed it must be aspiring to be Mount Cook.
We descended via the eastern route and enjoy vertiginous views downwards from the narrow track. It was not so steep as the western one and was probably best enjoyed on the way down.
The summit was at 775m. I was disappointed to find that Lake Wanaka is already at 300m above sea level, so the actual climb was only 475m. But this was still the hardest climb we have yet done: compare 203m for Swyre Head in Dorset, 224m for Box Hill and 294m for Leith Hill, both in Surrey. These are hardly areas known for steep climbs of course.
Distance: about 7 km, which took us 4 hours, including recuperative pauses and time at the summit. Almost 12000 steps.
Rating: Five stars. The first, but hopefully not the last.
Fantails and Bellbirds. Some Common Blues.
We have learned that most walks in NZ have a story. This one is unusual in that it was deliberately created in the early 1990s for the purpose of walking by a local businessman by the name of Stuart Landsborough.