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February 2019 Issue

Mt Robert via Paddys Track, Nelson Lakes National Park

Last summer, I went wild camping on a range of summits; drinking in the glorious views and photographing them. For starters, I planned a relatively easy climb to the top of Mt Robert, in my big backyard at Nelson Lakes.

It was just a few days after Christmas; I was still tired from working all year and not particularly fit, so I chose the easier Paddys Track (Pinchgut Track is more direct, and steeper).

Just an hour’s amble up this gentle path, there’s impressive views over Lake Rotoiti – that’s ‘small lake’ in Te Reo.

When the early explorers from Nelson were searching for farmland, they discovered this gem, nestled into the hills, and named it Lake Arthur after the founder of their settlement, Captain Arthur Wakefield. He had recently been executed by Te Rauparaha in the ugly ‘Wairau Affray’ of 1843.

Further up, I collected water and boiled a billy at the wonderfully-sited Bushline Hut, already filling up with trampers. But I had a tent and knew I could enjoy some solitude.

On reaching the subalpine zone, the wind whispered a song through the tussock. I heard a kea cry and hurriedly set up my tiny tent near the summit of Mt Robert. As night fell, a southerly wind picked up, and the sky filled with clouds.

Fighting the battering wind, I clicked off a few frames of the tiny town of St Arnaud far below. Then, tucked inside my bag, I mused that even in summer, camping is wild.

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Distance
5.34km
Total Ascent
702m
Grade
Easy
Time
2-3hr via Paddy’s Track
Accom.
Bushline Hut ($15, 14 bunks)
Access
6km from St Arnaud village
Map
BS24

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