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May 2016 Issue
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On any given Sunday

On the open tops heading to Mt Sunday. Photo: Dave Mitchell
Mt Richmond Forest Park
Total Ascent
Mt Sunday Biv (free, 2 bunks)
From Davies Road, north of Renwick

Mt Sunday Loop, Mt Richmond Forest Park, Marlborough

With stunning views from the rambling tops, this well-marked loop track makes a great day trip at the northern end of the Richmond Range.

There is a diverse forest and a vast array of alpine plants to enjoy that thrive along the open tops and flower in early January. Doing the loop clockwise gets all the steep and gnarly sections done in the uphill direction, followed by an undulating traverse with a more leisurely gradient back down to the start.

On a stunningly beautiful day, Ditte and I tossed a coin at the bottom of the loop track and headed left up towards Mt Sunday. The initial part of the track traverses through a logged forestry block to the start of the climb. It’s steep going and laced with beech and rata roots which are amazingly entwined with the rocky slopes and offered plenty of handholds on the steeper sections.

The grade relaxes as the bushline is neared and large rocky outcrops extend up to the very top in a series of false summits before finally reaching Mt Sunday, 1301m.

The summit is a lovely place to take a break and admire the magnificent views. There are pockets of beautiful olearia and mountain cedar mixed in with the beech, rimu and rata trees above the 1000m contour.

From the summit, an adjacent ridge extends west and is cloaked in forest. We traced the map along the Richmond Range to the peak above Fosters Hut then Mt Baldy and Mt Royal. They are off-track ridge top routes for those who want to explore. To the east, pine plantations and the massive grape fields of Marlborough lurk.

The track descends a short distance to Mt Sunday Biv with what looked like a new rainwater collection system – it’s much needed here with a total lack of drinkable water on most of the loop. We then walked the undulating ridge before a steep climb took us to the top of Mt Riley, 1314m, for lunch. Surrounded by flowering white-faced daisies and visited by native bees, bumble bees and grasshoppers, we felt popular.

From Mt Riley, the track descends through a spectacular jumble of huge granite outcrops before settling into the bush on a long and mostly gradual ridge descent to a beautiful creek.

A short walk follows this stream back into the forestry block to complete the loop.