Ahuriri Conservation Park
Lying between the head of Lake Ohau and the Ahuriri catchment and occupying a large chunk of the Ahuriri Conservation Park, the Barrier Range is an important recreational asset in the southern Mackenzie Basin.
Its value for outdoor enthusiasts covers the spectrum when it comes to the variety of excursions that can be undertaken on and around this manifestly beautiful region – everything from mountaineering, fishing and mountain biking is possible here against the grand backdrop of the Ahuriri Valley.
The range also offers some challenging trans-alpine trips and moderately difficult summits.
1. Ahuriri River
One of the most impressive valleys east of the Main Divide, the Ahuriri literally begs to be explored and what’s more the terrain is surprisingly easy to traverse, provided you have some good river fording skills and can identify unmarked pass crossings. The main valley also has four good, though small, huts well spaced through the catchment – Ahuriri Base, Shamrock, Hagens, and Top huts.
2. Mt St Mary
At 2337m, Mt St Mary is easily the highest on the range. It is a large mountain with many approaches, the easiest being from upper Snowy Creek where an easy scramble leads to the summit. This is an excellent peak to focus your attention should nor-west conditions rule out more westerly summits.
3. Snowy Creek – Maitland Stream
The Snowy-Maitland catchment offers a nice through or round trip between the Ahuriri and Lake Ohau. There are two valley huts, Snowy Creek and Maitland which open up options: traverse open tops and camp at high lakes on the nearby Ohau Range, or cross over the Barrier Range to Watson Stream.
4. South Temple and range crossings
This watershed is popular with climbers and also has several high routes out of its headwaters and tributaries, over the Barrier Range to the Ahuriri. Notable among these is South Temple Col to the extreme head of the Ahuriri. Another lies south-west of Pakeke Peak, and the last is a deep col mid-way between Mt Maitland and Elusive Peak. All are straightforward crossings in good conditions but will require ice axe and crampons in winter.
5. Watson Stream
A beautiful tributary of the Ahuriri and lying in the centre of the range, Watson Stream is worth a visit as a side trip from the Ahuriri, especially to view and perhaps camp on its spacious upper flats. It is a key waypoint for crossings of the range.
6. Mt Huxley
Very much a climber’s mountain, Mt Huxley, 2505m, dominates the upper Ahuriri and lies on the neighbouring Huxley Range. Approaches are challenging, especially the fearsome-looking south face.
7. Mt Maitland
More of a tramper’s mountain, Mt Maitland, 2249m, is a moderate scramble from near the Watson Stream Col and offers a grand outlook on the Mackenzie valleys.
8. Snowy Gorge Hut
Lying in the head basin of Snowy Gorge Creek this five-bunk hut makes a great base for climbing Mt St Mary or for exploring the upper basin and crossing to Maitland Stream.
9. Maitland Hut
A small hut (four bunks) in the upper bush of Maitland Stream which is readily accessed from the Lake Ohau Road, however permission from Lake Ohau Station (03 438 9663) is required to cross the lower valley. The hut lies on the regular, but unmarked, route to upper Watson Stream.
10. Top Hut
Remote and beautifully set, Top Hut in the upper Ahuriri River commands a view of the Barrier Range and is key to accessing the upper range crossings to the South Huxley and South Temple valleys. These are high alpine routes.