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Kahurangi’s Mt Patriarch viewed from the Wangapeka Track, Kahurangi. Photo: Shaun Barnett/Black Robin Photography

There are three craggy mountains named Patriarch in New Zealand.

Three mountains in New Zealand bear the name Patriarch, which means the man at the head of a family. In these enlightened times when we aspire to equality, the term can have a negative connotation, but it was different back in the 19th century when Pākehā were busy re-naming many of Aotearoa’s mountains.

Each of the peaks named Patriarch were so-called because of their craggy, dominant presence when seen from the valley below, and presumably were ‘something to look up to’.

1. Mt Patriarch (1656m), Mt Richmond Forest Park

The lowest of the three Mt Patriarchs is a distinctive landmark from the Wairau Valley and SH6. Fringed by bluffs and towering over the surrounding valleys, the mountain has a certain presence although reaching the summit is quite straightforward along a gradually inclining ridge.

From Staircase Road, drive to the Lake Chalice Track car park. From there, it’s a 14km walk to the top, mostly along an old vehicle track (using a mountain bike for some of the route is a speedier option). The junction of the track leading down to Mid Goulter Hut marks about the halfway point.

Early summer makes a good time to visit, when the alpine flowers are beginning to bloom.

2. Mt Patriarch (1701m), Kahurangi National Park

Mt Patriarch forms a craggy and imposing sight from the Wangapeka Track, and from this angle it’s perhaps no wonder that aspiring climbers of the 1940s thought it might be a suitable training ground for a Himalayan expedition. However, from the north, the peak is a straightforward climb.

Either take Chummies Track to John Reid Hut, then traverse the Arthur Range westwards, or approach on the Wangapeka and Kiwi tracks, staying at Kiwi Saddle Hut en route. Both routes lead to a saddle directly north of Mt Patriarch, where a scramble up limestone blocks leads to the highest of its three summits. On a good day, the peak offers grand views over a great swathe of Kahurangi’s mountains.

3. Mt Patriarch (2015m), Hāwea Conservation Park

The highest of New Zealand’s Patriarchs is situated in the mountains above Lake Hāwea. I haven’t climbed it, nor know anyone who has, and even the normally authoritative Moir’s Guide North is silent on the subject. But on the topo map, it looks approachable from the High Burn, a tributary of Lake Hāwea, with permission from Hunter Valley Station. Alternatively, you can simply admire the peak from afar by tramping up the Breast Hill Track, part of Te Araroa Trail.