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August 2011 Issue
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A spot of ferocious winds and gentle breezes

Steepface Hill is a spot of ferocious winds and gentle breezes. Photo: Pat Barrett
Time
3-4hr to summit
Grade
Difficult
Access
From Double Hill Run Road an easement is in place up Redcliffe Stream to the west of the peak and also through Terrible Gully on the eastern flanks
Map
BW19, BW20
Steepface Hill, Rakaia Valley

The Rakaia Valley in Central Canterbury is an arresting sight from any angle. Its broad swathe of gravel and river spews out from the Southern Alps like a huge grey tongue lapping at the flanks of lesser summits along its pathway.

One such summit is Steepface Hill, a ragged little peak on the south side of the Rakaia from where this shot was taken. To get up here you need a fair degree of fitness and determination because, as its name suggests, it is no ‘walk in the park’ to attain the top.

If the nor’wester is up when you visit then you may need to reconsider and perhaps find a safer alternative as these rugged slopes are fully exposed to the merciless sweep of the wind, so much so that wind speeds up here can be extremely dangerous with the potential to lift climbers off the slopes.

In fairer weather, the climb is a breeze, albeit with a fair portion of hard work. You could be on top in about three hours leaving time to gaze down the long steep flanks to where the blue pulse of the Rakaia River passes and into the large basins on the peak’s south side where there are possibilities for extended routes over to the Swift River or onto the long ridgeline that leads to the summit of Mt Hutt, six kilometres away.

Yet, even just to sit and sway here on the summit with the world seemingly at your feet, and let your gaze drift out over the expanse of the massive valley system below, is reason enough to start the climb. The spurs which lead here are uniformly steep, but this is always an advantage as height is more quickly gained and consequently the time of travail on the slopes is lessened.

So pick your day, check that wind and head for the top. There’s a reason for every hardship, you’ll see when you arrive.

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