- 2-3 hours to Nervous Knob from the locked gate
- On SH73, 7.5km north of Castle Hill Village, a signposted access road heads west into Craigieburn Forest Park and Broken River Skifield. A locked gate is in place 3.5km up this road
Nervous Knob, Craigieburn Forest Park, Canterbury
It is pre-dawn deep in the forests of Craigieburn Conservation Park and it is deathly dark. I have been walking steadily uphill towards Broken River Skifield along the access road for about 30 minutes, my headlamp illuminating the gloom. Though cool there is little snow about and I can make good time on the hard surface and, I hope, arrive at the ridge crest, 650m above, well before sun-up.
Startlingly, a light appears ahead of me, descending rapidly in my direction. It’s hard to tell just who or what is coming my way as the darkness obscures both definition and distance. I march on, a little nervously, anticipating the best.
As the distance narrows it becomes obvious that someone else is out and about at 4am, just like me, and not only that, but he is carrying a large hatchet. I keep a wide berth as we pass, but it turns out he is not looking for me, only possums. I nod agreeably, hastily bid him well, and hurry on up the road. I can do without that sort of fright.
As I climb out above the bushline, I shake the last of the cloying forest from my sub-conscious. High above, the ridgeline is etched against the starry sky. I still have a long way to go so I pick up the pace and make as direct a line as possible up scree and tussock slopes, reaching the crest of the Craigieburns just before sun-up.
Scampering along the crest through soft scree and shattered rock, I top-out on Nervous Knob, a sub-summit on the ridgeline at 1820m. Setting up camera and tripod I await the dawn scanning the great bowl of the Waimakariri basin for landscape features that I hope will be great focal points as the sun rises. At last I rest my lens on the rumpled profile of the Torlesse Range away to the east, beyond the Broken River catchment where it stands as the final barrier between the highcountry and the great plains.
Later I descend easily from the knob, cutting down through a ragged gully between Nervous Knob and Hamilton Peak to strike the road again well below the ski field. Thankfully, my axe-wielding friend has long since gone.