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Cooling off on the Ahuriri tops

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December 2021 Issue

Freehold Creek tarns, Ahuriri Conservation Park. By Amanda Rogers

Expansive views and idyllic tarns are the reward for a summer day trip to the tops above Lake Ōhau. 

In early December, the beech forest is ablaze with flowering red mistletoe, a rare treat. The forests around Ōhau are home to nationally significant populations of three species of native mistletoe, protected by possum trapping efforts from the Ōhau Conservation Trust. 

The first part of the route follows Parsons Creek and joins Te Araroa Trail near Freehold Creek, before heading west and following the creek to its headwaters. Campsites are plentiful along the true right. 

After reaching the bushline and leaving Te Araroa behind, an uphill meander can lead towards the tarns near Pt1479. In summer, alpine butterflies will be flushed from the shrubs dotting the tussock. The lower tarn, in its sheltered basin, offers a perfect coffee stop. But there are greater rewards for those who continue upwards. 

Climbing another 300m to reach the main ridge separating Ōhau Basin from Snowy Gorge, a saddle between Pt1834 and Pt1922 is reached. There’s some scree scrambling, but it’s relatively straightforward in good conditions.

From the ridge, there are incredible views: Lake Ōhau below, a glimpse of Aoraki to the north, and the Barrier Range to the west. 

The large crystal clear tarn nestled into the western side of the tops, right beneath Pt1922, is perfect for soaking weary feet before retracing steps back to the car park.

Distance
18.66km return
Total Ascent
1374m
Grade
Moderate
Time
Parson’s Creek car park to top tarn, 4.5hr
Access
From the car park at Parsons Creek, on Lake Ōhau Road
Map
BZ14

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Freehold Creek Tarn (gpx, 8 KB)

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