Image of the May 2012 Wilderness Magazine Cover Read more from the
May 2012 Issue
Home / Articles / Wild Trips

A gem of a lake

Deception Valley to Goat Pass, 6hr; Goat Pass to Lake Mavis, 1.5-2hr; Lake Mavis to SH73 via Mingha Valley, 4hr
Morrison Footbridge (Otira River) or Edwards/Mingha Car park (Bealey River), SH 73.
Lake Mavis, Kahurangi National Park

Though positioned at just 1582m, Lake Mavis, nestled in an alpine basin on the side of Mt Oates, is as close as any lake gets to the Main Divide. Those who make the effort to become acquainted with the lake are amply rewarded by spectacular vistas, a pristine environment, and a pervasive sense of peace.

We’d heard about Mavis from the glowing reports of others and were keen to see whether the reports were true. Would the gain exceed the pain?

Our pilgrimage began at the Morrison Footbridge on SH73 near Otira. This innocuous entrance belied the rigours of the Deception River Valley, which can only be traversed in good weather and low flows. It begins benignly enough, but after 3-4 hours the boulders gradually increase in size and the walk becomes a scramble. There is no real trail, and the way forward is a little hard to detect in places, but as long as you follow the river you cannot go far wrong. We completed 17 river crossings, some requiring care, but some parties apparently face as many as 30 if the water is deeper.

Goat Pass Hut was a welcome sight after a six-hour slog, concluded by a steep pinch up a dry stream bed. The hut has 20 bunks and even though it is now beginning to show its age, is a comfortable haven. The views of the Aicken Range from its windows are magnificent.

Mavis is no pushover. From Goat Pass, a 500m climb is necessary. We headed east off the boardwalk just above the hut, endeavouring to keep to the tussock and avoid the loose scree. It was hard going at first, but after an hour the worst was over. The slopes became more gradual, and it was easy to follow the cairns dotting the route up a distinct ridge. The crags of Mt Oates loomed ahead for some time, enticing us higher. As if to accentuate her own mystique and our sense of expectation, Mavis appeared suddenly and almost unexpectedly.

This exceptional lake captivated us for a couple of hours as we lay in the sun and imbibed the clear mountain air. The lake is fed by five pure snow-fed streams, its surface smooth and radiant with reflections. This is a sight worth seeing and will readily provide sheltered campsites for those who want to enjoy a longer stay. However, we had to descend. Ninety minutes up and sixty minutes down, the latter more difficult than the former. It was a reluctant retreat.

The Mingha River was our way out. Unlike the Deception, it had numerous boardwalks in the upper reaches, and a defined trail most of the way down. The impressive Kennedy Falls dropped in from the true left. It was easy going, the only significant challenge coming from Dudley, perhaps a former suitor of Mavis, who created a Knob in a vain attempt to impede others from reaching her. The Mingha and its tributaries were crossed only seven times, and the Bealey River just once before we hit the highway again near Greyney’s Shelter. We cut it out in less than four hours, though it takes a little longer in the opposite direction. Again, fine weather is required.

Mavis is an absolute gem and there is no doubt that our brief encounter will linger long in our memories.

– Phillip Donnell