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Shades of purple

Image of the September 2018 Wilderness Magazine Cover Read more from the
September 2018 Issue

Purple Hill, Craigieburn Station, Canterbury

Purple Hill guards the eastern shoreline of Lake Pearson, and is one of those ‘island summits’ unconnected to any main ranges and therefore offers a unique perspective on the landscape.

From the lake shore, the hill is a picture-postcard setting and in winter is framed by ridges decked with snow. 

It’s a tough route up the trackless hillside, starting from Long Hill Saddle, to a broad and easy-angled shoulder at around 1450m. Ice axe and crampons may be needed in winter.

Climbing the broad north ridge, first on tussock and later scree and rock, the varied topography of the landscape below becomes ever more apparent. The cones of Sugar Loaf, Og, Gog and Magog recede below and merge with the great sweep of the Waimakariri River as it surges past the flanks of Mt Binser. Although hardly a climber’s mountain, Purple Hill grants a stunning view over the landscape. 

The route continues through rocky sections, over small bluffs, sidling around larger ones until the summit ridge is reached. Then it’s a short traverse on easy angled slopes to the top and the all-encompassing view of the Waimakariri Basin, Craigieburn Range, and parts of Arthur’s Pass National Park.

There is another option for the descent, other than returning down the north ridge, and that is to drop down the steep scree face west of the summit, through scrub to the shore of  Lake Pearson. This can then be followed north, with some shallow wading or scrub bashing required to the vehicle track where you began at the lakehead.

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Total Ascent
Moderate / Difficult
3-4hr to summit. Descent via scree slope 3-4hr
Off SH73 at the northern end of Lake Pearson

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