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October 2020 Issue
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See more… Baldies

Dawn over Kahurangi’s Mt Baldy (1542m). Photo: Shaun Barnett/Black Robin Photography

Bare-topped peaks often go by the name Baldy. Here are eight worth visiting.

Ageing men often suffer from thinning thatch. For the mature tramper, this might require judicious use of sun hats in summer and beanies in winter.

Many hilltops in the backcountry are called ‘Baldy’ or various other references to a lack of forest on top. Most often, this is an effect of altitude; at other times it’s the result of a fire or even the nature of the geology.

Ironically, however, many of these peaks are not bare-headed at all but covered with a thick layer of tussock. And the term tussock originally meant ‘tuft of hair’. So, for example, Baldy in the Tararua Range has plenty of thatch.

A search of the map reveals at least 10 peaks called Baldy, and dozens more called Bald Hill, Cone or Mountain. Here are several worth visiting.

1. Baldy, Waitakere Ranges Regional Park

Although a modest 223m, this hill above the Pararaha Valley is ringed by bluffs, giving it a presence belying its diminutive height. From the coastal settlement at Karekare, walkers can enjoy a pleasant stroll along the coast, past the wetlands and through the tunnel at Tunnel Point to reach the Pararaha Valley. This is as close as you can get to Baldy, because the inland tracks here, including the Pararaha Valley, eremain closed because of kauri dieback.

2. Baldy, Tararua Forest Park

This Baldy (1325m) is an outlier peak – a low flat summit east of the Kings. It forms a useful escape route from the tops, with tracks leading from its summit into the Atiwhakatu or Waingawa valleys.

3. Mt Baldy, Mt Richmond Forest Park

The Wakamarina Track crosses the eastern heights of the Richmond Range, providing a moderate tramp or challenging mountain bike ride. From Kiwi Road, the track climbs to Fosters Clearing, which offers views of nearby Mt Baldy (1315m). There’s accommodation at Fosters Hut.

4. Mt Baldy, Kahurangi National Park

A significant scar rakes the conical flanks of Mt Baldy (1542m), one of several named peaks on the Wharepapa/Arthur Range. Trampers rarely climb the peak, but often look across at it from the tops above John Reid Hut.

5. Baldy, Lewis Pass Scenic Reserve

Lake Daniell is a popular walking and fishing destination in the Lewis Pass area, where DOC recently opened the 20-bunk Kōhanga Atawhai Manson-Nicholls Hut. Baldy (1329m) is one of the few neighbouring peaks to rise above the bushline, hence its name.

6. Bald Range, Arthur’s Pass National Park

The Bald Range marks the north-western extent of Arthur’s Pass National Park. It’s accessible from Carroll Hut, on the adjacent Kelly Range, reached on a steep but accessible track from the highway near Ōtira. Easy travel, tarns and plenty of tussock characterise the range, with its highest peak known as Rangi Taipo (1459m)

7. Bald Mountain, Mt Aspiring National Park

Bald Mountain (1547m) truly has no thatch, lying within the ultramafic Red Hills zone of the Olivine Wilderness Area. High levels of magnesium and iron give the rocks a rusting red colour and the area’s soils are toxic to all but a few plants. There are no tracks to this remote area, which is most often accessed from the Cascade River south of Jackson Bay.

8. Bald Cone, Rakiura National Park

Perhaps the most remote of the country’s bald peaks, Bald Cone rises 230m above the waters of Port Pegasus, at the southern end of Rakiura/Stewart Island. From South Pegasus Hunters Hut, informal tracks lead to the granite peak, one of several distinctive domes rising above the latitude-stunted scrub of the area.

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