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January 2013 Issue
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No idle moments on Ida

Climbing Mt Ida with the Avoca Valley below. Photo: Pat Barrett
Coleridge Road from Rakaia Gorge and then onto Homestead and Harper roads to Lake Selfe

Mt Ida, Mt Ida Conservation Area

There’s a solid 900m slog awaiting those wishing to summit the isolated peak of Mount Ida in central Canterbury, just north of Lake Coleridge. It’s untracked, unmarked, and very steep, though there is no technical difficulty – just find a good line, and head up.

This is what Mike Latty and I did one afternoon when the idea of a walk in the hills on a sultry evening looked to be a good, albeit tough, option. I had deliberately chosen a late start so we could cruise the shingle ridge crest between the peaks’ three summits in the early evening and perhaps catch the golden light of sunset from a lofty vantage. It’s a tawny, ragged, and dusty topography here, where rivers twist about the giant tors searching for an escape from the maze.

The first summit is at 1642m, and 700m away, through a shallow saddle, is Mt Ida, just 53m higher. We reach it at 6pm, the light is lowering in the sky, the nor’west wind is but a faint memory, and we are positioned for a remarkable ramble in evening light along the 1.5km ridge to the low peak at 1570m. Our loosely formed plan has paid out handsomely. The ridge is spectacularly narrow, dropping rapidly 1000m to the Harper River screes on one side and another 1000m south to the Lake Selfe basin.

The route off the low peak requires care – there are bluffs and steeper slopes ringing the south side, so an assiduous line is chosen to skirt these obstacles and gain the great south-west scree face of Mt Ida. At 1400m we sidle out onto the face to begin the 700m descent – a scree run. Great leaping bounds in soft, finely grained scree take us from the sunlit heights in barely 20 minutes onto the dark flanks of the lower mountain.

It’s getting late and the exhilaration of the descent is short-lived – a narrow band of tall matagouri bars our progress. I am still wearing shorts so by the time we are onto the easy tussock slope below the scrub band we are not a pretty sight as we limp to the car at the far end of the lake.