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Castle Hill Peak (winter), Arthur’s Pass National Park

The final steep section before the summit. Photo: Dennis Radermacher
Total Ascent
8hr return
Park at the top of Porter’s Pass on SH73
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Castle Hill Peak.Aug.2016 (gpx, yo 9 KB)
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Exploring the backcountry with snow and ice on the ground is a completely different game compared to three-season tramping on solid rock. It requires different skills, preparation and equipment.

If you’re the proud owner of crampons, ice axe and helmet and happen to live in Christchurch, then chances you have been to Castle Hill Peak. It’s arguably the region’s most accessible alpine ridge with a convenient car park located at the top of Porters Pass.

The unmarked yet easy route is laden with tussock and scree, and glorious views can be found on the summit of Foggy Peak, the first milestone reached on this trip.

This close to the Alps, the terrain is varied: behind, mountains give way to foothills, plains and eventually the Pacific Ocean. Ahead, the sugar-coated peaks of the Craigieburns, the Torlesse Range and countless other peaks show promise for future adventures.

After a short drop to the saddle between Foggy Peak and Castle Hill Peak, the terrain became tougher, and crampons might be necessary if you’re here in winter.

The route to Castle Hill Peak is technically easy with only a short, steep section on the final ascent mid-way between Pt1842 and the summit. For the most part, the route follows a gradually rising, wide ridge that keeps away from any avalanche terrain.

A final steep incline leads to the summit, which when reached, is like opening a final curtain onto the Southern Alps. How many peaks can be squeezed into one vista?

A winter walk to Castle Hill Peak is the perfect first experience for those who have learned the basics of snowcraft.