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February 2014 Issue
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Jollie Range

The Lawrence Valley and Jollie Range (right) from Butler Saddle Photo: Pat Barrett

Hakatere Conservation Park, Canterbury

South and east of the Main Divide, the Jollie Range runs from above the southern banks of the Rakaia River to wall in the north-western side of the Lawrence River in the central Canterbury Alps. As it meets the Arrowsmith Range at North Peak it effectively isolates the entire Lawrence catchment from the Rakaia and offers numerous exciting and challenging tramps and climbs along its length and breadth.

High cols and passes are numerous here, though most are reasonably challenging and require moderate alpine skills to negotiate safely. The rivers, though large and requiring care to cross, for the most part give ready access to the peaks and passes of the range and also some of the best tahr and chamois hunting in the South Island.

– Pat Barrett

1 Lawrence Valley

The best known and most accessible valley along the eastern flanks of the range, the Lawrence can be traversed to its head in a day from Erewhon Station (permission required). Travel up valley is easy and the river is of only moderate size in normal flows. The valley head is particularly spectacular.

2 Lawrence Hut

This is the closest hut to the range lying near its southern end and being an excellent base for exploring the upper valley and tops. With permission, 4WD vehicles can be taken this far.

3 Lawrence Bivvy

A tiny two bunk bivvy lying near the valley head, below Butler Saddle. It has a stunning location and is well-placed for hunters searching the tops for game or those aspiring to the peaks and passes of the upper valley.

4 Butler Saddle

Butler Saddle, 1870m, is the best tramping pass for access into or out of the head of the Lawrence, over the range to the Rakaia via Meins Knob. It is a long but reasonably straightforward route in good conditions. Expect snow at any time of year.

5 Chowbok Col

Just east of Butler Saddle, Chowbok Col, 1979m, is a steeper alternative to reach the Rakaia Valley via Reischek Stream. It is not often used but may make a round trip possible to the Rakaia.

6 Musterers Col

Musterers Col, 2046m, provides a high route linking the Lawrence, over the Jollie Range, to the Sinclair branch of the Clyde River. It is reached via the head of Outlaw Stream to gain the ridge south of the col. Hunting parties and those pursuing summits along the range will find this route useful.

7 Sinclair Valley

A large feeder stream of the Clyde, the Sinclair River drains much of the western slopes of the Jollie Range, boasts some excellent hunting opportunities and has several impressive and sought-after summits at its head – notably Amazon Peak, 2486m, Outlaw Peak, 2394m, and The Warrior, 2580m. A rock bivvy in the upper section of Sinclair River provides good shelter.

8 Reischek Valley

Another spectacular glacial valley running just to the north of the range offering hunting and climbing opportunities. Accessed directly from the Rakaia River, or from the Lawrence via the route to Chowbok. Numerous summits, including 2637m Red Peak, the highest point in the Jollie Range, and those on the neighbouring Arrowsmith Range are accessible from the headwaters.

9 Rakaia Valley headwaters

On the Rakaia side of the Jollie Range, two huts, Lyell and Reischek, offer bases to explore the upper Rakaia Valley and glaciers. The Lyell branch of the Rakaia is bridged below Meins Knob, but this is the only bridge in the catchment.

10 Clyde Valley

Equally as large and as dangerous as the Rakaia, the Clyde River cuts past the southern toe of the Jollie Range at Black Bluff. Round trips could be made from the Lawrence to the Rakaia and Clyde using some of the passes or via Kirk Stream and 2074m Crossbow Saddle.