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March 2016 Issue
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Kahurangi high

Looking north-east from the flanks of Mt Owen to nearby Mt Bell (1857m). Photo: Peter Laurenson
Kahurangi National Park
Total Ascent
8-12hr. Courthouse Flat car park to Granity Pass Hut, 4-6hr; Granity Pass Hut to Mt Owen summit, 2-4hr return; Side trip to Billies Knob, 2hr return
Granity Pass Hut, 12 bunks
From Courthouse Flat car park at the end of Wangapeka River Rd
BR23, BR24
GPX File
Mt owen via Granity Pass Hut (gpx, yo 35 KB)
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Mount Owen, Kahurangi National Park

The peaks of Kahurangi National Park may not be the biggest in the South Island, but the distinctive limestone they’re composed of makes them among the most dramatic. It’s an often sheer landscape, reminiscent of Fiordland’s Darran Mountains. Over the eons, elements have dissolved some of the rock faces into almost glacial shapes, with deep fissures that resemble crevasses.

At 1875m, Mt Owen is the highest mountain in Kahurangi National Park and access to the summit requires a bit of grunt. The trail begins much lower, at 330m, and climbs steadily to 1250m beneath Billies Knob before dropping steeply through forest to Blue Creek. Some boulder hopping ensues before Granity Pass Hut is reached. Surrounded by towering limestone cliffs, it’s a spectacular spot to overnight.

From the hut, a defined ridge curves up to a saddle, where Mt Owen appears across gradually rising tussock and tarns. The real fun begins on the mountain’s limestone flanks as you find a way through the fissures and bulges. Time your visit to watch the sunset – it’s spectacular.

A worthwhile side trip on the return to the car park is to Billies Knob, 1648m. An hour or so of sustained climbing up tussock and limestone rewards with a great view back to Mt Owen.