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Avalanche Peak via Scotts Track, Arthur’s Pass National Park

Image of the April 2020 Wilderness Magazine Cover Read more from the
April 2020 Issue

On top of the world

Our climb to Avalanche Peak began with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. In resesarching the trip, we couldn’t help but notice the warnings from DOC: ‘Dying to see the view?’ There have been 11 fatalities on the peak since 1933 and the route is prone to avalanches and is especially perilous in high winds or poor visibility. The final section to the 1833m summit involves crossing a knife-edge ridge.

There are two routes to the summit: Avalanche Peak Track and Scotts Track, both approximately 700m apart and starting at Arthur’s Pass Village. Beyond the bushline, they become routes, marked with cairns and coloured snow poles. Avalanche Peak Track is steeper, though it is evident that Scott’s Track would be no cakewalk.

The track climbs steeply through mountain beech and gives great views of the Devil’s Punchbowl Waterfall and the surrounding ranges. Beyond the bushline is a grassy plateau. We watched a procession of walkers on Avalanche Peak Track snaking their way up to the peak. We were soon following the ridge and averting our eyes from the bluffs. About 10min from the top, the two tracks converge and tantalisingly close to the peak’s crumbly summit, the track narrows to a knife-edge.

My husband took the lead while I tentatively inched my way across. Fear hijacked my senses and I momentarily froze, but with encouragement was soon across and the hard grunt of the past four hours, the self-doubt, the trepidation, all dissolved away. The satisfaction was immense.

From the summit, you can see the Southern Alps, the Crow Glacier to the north and the Waimakariri River meandering between the mountains, a miniature hamlet below. The beauty of the panorama is captivating.
Kea provided entertainment and photo opportunities for the united nations of trekkers sharing the summit with us.

There was caution rather than trepidation in making the descent, the drop-offs being less directly in our line of vision. We returned by the same track, a taxing descent, steep with loose rock, and once below the treeline, endless roots.

By the car park, eight hours later, the Bealey River provided a cool dip for aching feet. Reaching the Peak and back in a day is physically and psychologically testing, but it left us with a sense of triumph.

– Wendy Blaas

Total Ascent
8h return
SH73 at Arthur’s Pass Village

GPX File

Scotss Track route (gpx, 12 KB)

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