It wasn’t that long ago that no one knew where Lake Hawea was, overshadowed as it was by nearby Wanaka. The small lakeside town now boasts the highest number of Everest summits per population of any town outside of Nepal, with local guide Mark Sedon one of them. When he’s not off on expeditions or organising the New Zealand Mountain Film Festival, Sedon is exploring the 1800m-2000m mountain tops around the pristine, glacier carved lake.
“There is an array of new tracks and new or renovated huts accessible throughout the year,” says Sedon, adding that best of all “there are never any crowds”.
0800: Get some strawberries from the greenhouse, muesli and yogurt for breakfast, fill the water bottle, leave a note of where you’re going and the time you’re due back.
0830: Pop some water and a jacket into a small pack, jump on the mountain bike and off down the road. Ride around the new Lake Hawea Foreshore Track to the start of the Pakituhi Track up Breast Hill (1578m).
0900: Dump the bike in the trees, have a drink and admire the morning light on Mt Maude (1315m) across the lake. Top up the water bottle from the lake if need be and hit the track which climbs steeply up a valley to a ridge where there is usually a welcome cool breeze.
1130: Top out on the ridge and go check out the Pakituhi Hut. Fill up your water bottle and head off up the ridge to the summit of Breast Hill.
1200: Summit! Phew, 1200m of climbing takes it out of you. What a view though, Mt Aspiring to the west, Mt Brewster and Sentinel Peak to the north, the Lindis Pass and ranges to the east, and the Pisa Range to the south.
1230: Time to start the descent – steep and hard on the knees, but the views and fresh air will keep you distracted until you get back to the lake.
14:30: Have another drink from the lake, jump on the bike and ride to Lake Hawea’s only cafe. ‘Salz’ has an awesome kitchen, and the best fish and chips this side of the Southern Alps. Fresh blue cod, washed down with a tasty hot chocolate, and an ice cream.
1600: Home to stretch and relax….
You don’t have to go to the top of the Pakituhi Track to enjoy the views and exercise. Hike for an hour to the end of the switchbacks on a great trail to get to the ridge and rewarding views of the lake and surrounding peaks. Take a picnic and have togs in the car for a swim when you get back down.
Drive past the Pakituhi Track for five minutes to Timaru Creek. Take the high track which sidles north of the valley and drops down to Junction Hut. Enjoy the serenity and beauty of the area – you may even spot a deer if you are quiet – then come back down the river with several waste deep crossings (don’t bother taking your shoes off). Don’t do it in rain or just after.