The Long Pathway’s highlight,
One day, I picked up a hitch-hiker on the Matukituki Road. She was taking a break from the Te Araroa Trail to make the climb to Cascade Saddle. When I questioned her on highlights, she was decisive: ‘the descent from Stag Saddle’. Taking her advice, I later scanned the map for the nearest high point and came across Beuzenberg Peak, 2070m, on the Two Thumb Range.
Some Germanic names come from the early explorations of government geologist Julius von Haast. But in this instance, the naming story was much more recent. Erica Beuzenberg fell to her death near Ball Pass whilst guiding in 2005. This was a relatively tame expedition for the accomplished climber and her loss was felt by many climbers.
Her accomplishments include being the first woman to climb Aoraki/Mt Cook in winter and summiting New Zealand’s 20 highest peaks in a single winter.
The route to the peak is divided broadly into two sections: to the privately-owned Rex Simpson Hut and then along the sinuous ridge to the summit.
After a steady ascent following marker poles at the edge of the Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Park, I reached the hut and got comfortable on the deck.
I later discovered Beuzenberg’s mentor, Gottleib Braun-Elwert, who had accompanied her on the multi-summit winter adventure, suggested to the New Zealand Geographic Board in 2007 that a peak near Rex Simpson Hut be named after her. Braun-Elwert had himself constructed this hut as a base for trips with his guiding company, Alpine Recreation. He named the hut after a local farmer who had died in a climbing accident. Braun-Elwert tragically died of a heart attack in this very hut in 2008.
Climbing the nose of Snake Ridge, I weaved a course on the deer tracks. Sneaky peeks up the Godley and the reflected light on the river braids were a treat. Although the main Te Araroa trail was below and to my right alongside Camp Stream, I preferred the elevated ridge. A false peak announced a change from tussock-studded vegetation to a colourful array of exposed schist. Low growing cushion plants encrusted the sheltered hollows. Otherwise, the surface was bare.
From Beuzenberg Peak, above Stag Saddle, the views were expansive, with Aoraki/Mt Cook and Mt Tasman overtopping the ridge to the west. But it was on the descent I started to understand the hitch-hiker’s comments. The contrast of the afternoon light on the golden tussock with the backdrop of Lake Tekapo’s turquoise water saturated with a crisp autumn glow was jaw-dropping.
- Total Ascent
- 9hr return
- Camp Stream Hut, six bunks ($10 donation to Mackenzie Alpine Trust)
- 2km from Lake Tekapo along SH8 turn left into Lilybank Road. Just after crossing Coal River and before Mount Gerald Station, there is an indistinct DOC sign on the right. This leads along a rough track through several gates to a parking area by the small river.
- BY17, BX17