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March 2011 Issue
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Freyberg Range, Westland

Descending from Mt Freyburg

The Freyberg Range runs in a west to north-east direction immediately north of the Lewis Pass Highway (SH7).

The range is big and bold when viewed from the highway and requires a significant effort to reach its rugged crest from the Maruia Valley, the major watershed at the foot of the range. Mounts Mueller and Freyberg are the principle summits and indeed the only named peaks on the range. Though only two tracks access the range these are enough to provide some exciting opportunities for traverses and crossings in either a weekend or even a day excursion.

1 Mueller Tarn

Probably the best known feature on the range is Mueller Tarn, a beautiful bush-edge lakelet at 1200m on the southern faces directly above the Maruia Springs Thermal Resort. The track up is extremely steep and would be slippery after rain. There are some limited campsites at the tarn and possibilities to roam father afield.  

2 Mt Freyberg

The range’s highest point, Mt Freyberg (1817m) is clearly visible from the Lewis Pass. It is best accessed via a long range traverse from Mueller Tarn; this necessitates covering at least 10km of ridgeline which is possible in one day for a fit party in good conditions.  

3 Mt Mueller

Near the western extremity of the range is 1630m Mt Mueller. A steep marked track leads to the bush edge from the true right bank of the Maruia River opposite the highway. The summit is a great viewpoint from which to scan the surrounding Victoria Range and Main Divide.

4 St James Walkway

Beginning at the eastern end of the range is the St James Walkway, the region’s premier track, the first part of which traverses the upper Maruia Valley beneath a sub-ridge of the Freyberg Range. Just above Cannibal Gorge Hut, steep scree slopes give access to the northern end of the Freyberg Range at a broad pass which also accesses upper Pell Stream.

5 Pell Stream

Draining the northern flanks of the range, Pell Stream is a moderately large catchment containing Pell Stream Hut which can be reached in a long day from the Marble Hill car park on SH7. The lower gorge has a track but much of the travel in the mid-reaches is in the river bed and requires low to average flows to negotiate. The hut is pleasantly sited on river flats and from here the upper valley and low pass to Cannibal Gorge Hut can be accessed.

6 Maruia Springs

Though of modest size, the magnificent ambience of the Maruia Springs Thermal Resort on SH7 makes a short luxurious soak almost obligatory on any visit to the range. Kicking back in the hot pools after a challenging tramp on the tops and running your eyes along the ragged faces of the Freyberg Range, hanging over the pools, is sheer joy, especially in winter.

7 Waterfall Walk

West of Maruia Springs a small roadside car park and track sign indicates the start of a short trail through the beautiful red beech forest of the Maruia Valley to view a modest waterfall face. The cascade is particularly attractive after heavy rain.

8 Lake Daniells

Large and very scenic, bush fringed Lake Daniells lies in an amphitheatre of forest and mountain just north-west of the Freyberg Range. The Manson-Nicholls Memorial Hut on the lake’s southern shore is large and a popular destination for families and those just wanting an easy tramping trip. A good track leads to the hut from the Marble Hill car park.

9 Range Traverses

The entire Freyberg Range can be readily traversed from the Mt Mueller Track through to Mt Freyberg and then on to the low pass above the Cannibal Gorge Hut. An exit can be made here to reach the St James Walkway or for competent parties the upper Maruia can be reached via two 1900m peaks. Some sidling may be necessary near these summits.

10 Glenroy Headwaters

The upper Glenroy Valley, in Nelson Lakes National Park, can be reached from the 1345m pass above Cannibal Gorge Hut by first climbing along the range to the north over peak 1604m and sidling into the basin below. This makes possible a return trip into the upper Maruia or a tops trip over to Lake Daniells.

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