Hakatere Conservation Park, Canterbury
The wedge-shaped Potts Range, sandwiched between the Lawrence and Potts valleys, stands near enough to the Main Divide to provide spectacular close-up views of the Alps, but far enough away to often avoid the worst of the nor-west weather stream common in those parts, making it a convenient alternative in such conditions.
The summits are not huge, though regularly top 2000m and allow for some interesting range crossings and exploration. There are few huts but many excellent high campsites and a varied landscape to cover.
– Pat Barrett
1 Mt Potts
The range’s namesake summit tops out at 2184m and has a nearby low peak at 2152m. Approaches are many and the large basin between the summits will allow for a high camp from where you can survey the peaks and passes of the upper Clyde and Potts rivers.
2 The Pyramid
An outlier of Mt Potts, The Pyramid, 1748m, can be used as part of a traverse to the higher peak or a viewpoint in its own right. It is best approached from the Hakatere-Potts Road.
3 Lawrence River
Flowing along the west side of the range, Lawrence River is a major feeder of the Clyde and a gateway valley to access the Arrowsmith Range. There are routes possible from the valley floor to reach the Potts Range but because these cross private land, permission is needed from Erewhon Station.
4 Lawrence Hut
Nicely set on the west side of the Lawrence River, Lawrence Hut commands an excellent view of the Potts Range and is a great base for exploring the upper Lawrence Valley.
5 Potts River
The lower Potts River is a part of the Te Araroa Trail route and also provides access into Mystery Lake and the upper Potts. This is big country and it takes a reasonably long time to reach the upper valley.
6 Potts Hut
An old musterer’s hut, Potts Hut lies in the mid-reaches of the Potts and provides excellent shelter for those crossing from the South Ashburton or Lawrence valleys. It is set on a terrace above the river at the junction of several routes through the watershed.
7 Clyde River
A huge catchment which drains the eastern and southern sides of the Garden of Eden ice plateau, the Clyde has a fearsome reputation as a river that is both turbulent and often difficult to cross. There are no marked tracks in the valley, the route travelled is at the whim of the river.
8 Pito Peak
Pito Peak, 2401m, lies at the very head of the Potts River and is more correctly a part of the Big Hill Range, however the Potts Range begins from its western shoulder and heads south-west and south to The Pyramid.
9 Mt Sunday
Now a well established landmark and tourist destination, Mt Sunday, 611m, was a location used in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It stands at the base of the Potts Range on the Rangitata riverbed. It can be reached via a marked track off of the Hakatere Potts Road.
10 Lake Clearwater
This is the largest lake near the range and is a popular site for wind surfing, canoeing, and fishing. It is also home for the endangered crested grebe and a protected waterway and wetland. The lake offers fine views of the range and more distant peaks.
11 Erewhon Park Ski Field
This historic ski field, operating under the name of Mt Potts Heli-skiing, was set up by one of the early owners of the Erewhon Station, Arthur Urquhart, who bulldozed a track up into the high basin under Mt Potts. It’s a beautiful location with access now being via helicopter and snowcat.