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November 2017 Issue

Camp on a Kahurangi peak

Ever wondered where are the favourite spots of those who know the backcountry better than anyone? We’ve canvassed DOC rangers around the country for their must-do, must-see tracks, valleys, huts and viewpoints. 

Mt Gibbs, Kahurangi National Park

Ranger: Crystal Brindle, Takaka

Hut warden Crystal Brindle discovered Mt Gibbs when she was studying a map to find a place to spend a quiet night in the hills. Based on the topography, she had a hunch that it might offer some great views; plus, it was just a few hours from the road end.

She wasn’t disappointed: from the summit, there are views to Round Lake and the Tasman Wilderness Area to the west. “The sweeping expanse of Kahurangi National Park is laid out in front of you – its golden tops, deep green forest, blue lakes, and endless skies,” says Brindle. “It’s a place to contemplate the unique wonders of this special area.”

The track to Mt Gibbs begins at Trilobite Hut, through silver beech forest. It passes Chaffey’s Shelter and a historic trent camp before reaching Cobb Hut, about 11.5km in.

Just past Cobb Hut, take the left branching track to Lake Cobb and follow it until a trail sign for Mt Gibbs. Brindle says the track deteriorates into a small trail that’s marked by the occasional cairn and flagging. “Often the trail is lost and then found again before becoming obscure in the tussock-filled basin directly north of Xenicus Peak and east of Mt Gibbs,” she says.

Water can be collected from small streams here before heading straight up the basin to the obvious saddle between Xenicus and Mt Gibbs. From the saddle, there are views in all directions and the summit of Mt Gibbs is clearly visible – just climb across rock and alpine vegetation to reach it.

Flat tent sites abound on tussock benches dotted with alpine tarns.