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Beyond the Bealey Valley Walking Track

The Bealey Valley Walking Track in Arthur’s Pass National Park is so easy everyone can do it. But few opt for the extra challenge of pushing on beyond the trail end, writes Neil Helson

Hidden by thick beech forest near Arthur’s Pass is the short Bealey Valley Walking Track.

For the keen tramper, the valley offers a combination of the best of the other tramps in the Arthur’s Pass area. The beautiful, narrow valley is towered over by Rome and Goldney ridges. The head of the valley is daunting, with canyons, bluffs and terrain which simply looks impossible.

The scenery is spectacular, particularly from Goldney Ridge, with the iconic Arthur’s Pass peaks of Avalanche Peak, Lyell peak and Mt Bealey on one side, and Mt Philistine and the Rolleston Glacier on the other. The Low Peak of Mt Rolleston is dead ahead.

As popular as the Bealey Valley Track is, few people venture beyond its end at the Bealey River. And why should they, when the scenery is spectacular and to proceed further a tad daunting?

The nearby low peak of Mt Rolleston dominates the skyline, together with fearsome bluffs and cascading waterfalls which run to the valley floor. But for those keen to expend a bit of energy on some minimal rock scrambling, there are three options to see more of this stunning valley.

When to go
Exploring the Bealey Valley is best between mid-November and early April. At other times, the Bealey Slide and the Otira Valley are subject to serious avalanche danger.

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The Bealey Slide. Photo: Neil Helson

1. Bealey Slide

The Slide is a wide scree slope which starts high up in the bluffs on the Goldney Ridge and ends in a fearsome gully which is the source of the Bealey River.

A straightforward climb to the foot of the Bealey Slide makes for a great half-day trip, especially in November when there are hundreds of Mt Cook lilies lining the trail.

Follow the DOC track to its end and cross the Bealey River to where an older, unmarked trail continues up the valley. Boulder-hop on the true right upstream to an isolated and prominent large boulder on the true left – this marks a good point to leave the riverbed and climb one of the creeks to the fault scarp below the bluffs of Goldney Ridge. The creeks make for better going and avoid damaging the many Mt Cook lilies on this face.

Emerging from the fault scarp, there is a large cairn and the otherwise hidden Bealey Slide opens out to reveal a much wider vista and a stunning view of waterfalls and bluffs, dominated by the low peak of Mt Rolleston.

Grade Moderate Time 3hr return

The Chockstone. The Bealey Slide. Photo: Neil Helson

2. The Chockstone

This massive diamond-shaped boulder is wedged between the walls of two cliffs at around the 1580m contour and is part of the mountaineering route to the low peak of Mt Rolleston.

Climb the Bealey Slide until the Chockstone can be seen wedged in a gully on the left. Continue climbing but angle left towards the Chockstone. A large, previously hidden, v-shaped rift (this is probably an old avalanche chute) blocks the route and even in summer can contain hard snow.

Cross the rift and head up good rock to the boulder.

Grade Moderate Time 5-6hr return

View from Goldney Ridge. The Bealey Slide. Photo: Neil Helson

3. Goldney Ridge Crossing

Attaining the ridge can be achieved with only a minimal amount of rock scrambling, and then a circuit can be completed by descending the Otira Face and on down the Otira Valley to the highway.

Climb the Bealey Slide to a point where the scree ends with a row of fearsome bluffs. A gully opens out on the true right of the slide and can be reached by crossing the rift.

Enter the gully and, near its head, scramble onto the side of the gulley and then around on good rock to Goldney Ridge.

An easy short side trip is to ascend Goldney Ridge to a point above the Goldney Glacier.

A saddle on the ridge just south of Pt1832, is a good place to start the descent to the Otira Valley.

The descent is easy going on loose blocky scree.

On reaching the end of the scree, look across the Valley for a white painted marker on the true left which marks the start of a well-defined track to SH73.

From November to January, ice axe and crampons should be carried.

Grade Difficult Time 7-8hr