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January 2012 Issue
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Black Range, Arthur’s Pass National Park

On the summit of Mt Bruce (1630m). Photo: Pat Barrett
Black Range, Arthur’s Pass National Park

Zig-zagging in a south-eastwards direction from Greenlaw Col in Arthur’s Pass National Park to Mt Misery above Cass on SH73, the Black Range dogs the course of the Waimakariri River. It includes many notable and well known summits and passes that will feature on a list of waypoints that active trampers and climbers will wish to visit. This is particularly relevant as the range has excellent road and track access along both southern and northern boundaries. While the terrain at its western end is reasonably challenging, this softens somewhat towards the east and south, but even here the topography throws up a few gnarly summits and rugged catchments.

1. Mt Gizeh (2162m)
This is the highest named summit on the range (although a nearby point height just east of Greenlaw Col is higher at 2177m) and can be reached by traversing the ridge or basins south of Gizeh Col.

2. Gizeh Col
This remote col allows access to the extreme head of the Avoca Valley and is a key route for those wanting a challenging crossing from the Waimakariri, via Anti-Crow Stream, to the Avoca. At 1971m you could expect to find snow on this pass all year.

3. Cols and passes in the head of the Avoca
Greenlaw, Avoca, Fools, and Echo cols, all located in the vicinity of Gizeh Col, are not reliable tramping routes between the Waimak and Avoca. Most have poor access, particularly from Greenlaw Creek or are bluffed on their descent to the Avoca.

4. Sphinx-Jordan trip
A popular tramping route across the range with good access through both Anti-Crow and Jordan streams. It is ideal as a two or three day trip from Klondyke Corner on SH73 with the extra time being spent on a visit to the spectacular head of the Avoca.

5. Hut Spur
Bealey Spur Hut is the most visited location on the range and one of the most popular day walks in and around Arthur’s Pass National Park. It is a delightfully easy ridge walk up to the bush edge clearing which contains the small historic musterer’s hut from which there are great views of the surrounding ranges. Hut Spur can be readily followed to the crest of the Black Range from where Jordan Saddle or Blind Spur can be accessed.

6. Bruce Saddle
A major landmark crossing of the range exists at the head of Bruce Stream, which provides access, over Bruce Saddle, to Amphitheatre Creek and the Avoca or north to Blind Spur-Hut Spur or east and south to Long Creek.

7. Long Creek
Tramping through Long Creek makes possible a round trip between Bruce Stream and saddle back to the highway via Lagoon Saddle. Long Creek is an attractive catchment with some good campsites in its mid section.

8. Lagoon Saddle
The Cass Saddle-Lagoon Saddle circuit is the pre-eminent weekend tramp in the Black Range and is well served with excellent huts – particularly the nicely sited Hamilton Hut – bridges, and a well marked track. Both saddles are above the bushline in areas of notable natural beauty, with Lagoon Saddle studded with tarns and grand views of the Arthur’s Pass region.

9. Mt Bruce
High above Lagoon Saddle stands Mt Bruce (1630m) and one of the best viewpoints in the entire Waimak basin. It is easily accessible from various points of the saddle track and though reasonably steep makes a fine day trip from the highway or an add-on to the Cass-Lagoon Track. The view covers the majority of the landscape of eastern Arthur’s Pass National Park and the Black Range.

10. Avoca Valley
Hidden between the Waimakariri and the Wilberforce valleys, the Avoca Valley provides a remote experience for tramping parties within the scope of a normal two day weekend. There are a few small huts and some excellent cross range trips, mentioned earlier, possible from this catchment.

11. Mt Misery
The 1765m Mt Misery is accessible by climbing steep basins and ridges out of the Cass River or traversing the range from the high, unnamed 1912m summit north of Cass Saddle.