The dark green slopes of Mount Climie (862m) loom somewhat forebodingly behind Upper Hutt, but this peak is an easy half-day, out-and-back hike well within reach of many families. By Lachlan McKenzie
From Tunnel Gully, a five-minute walk along Tane’s Track leads through an enclave of mature native podocarp forest. In early summer, scarlet rātā blossoms pepper the dark green forest.
The track skips across the Remutaka Cycle Trail before reaching the upper car park and an open lawn. Head towards the far end of the lawn where there are two options for the ascent: the gated 4WD service road, or this route with a signposted path for the Mt Climie firebreak.
The firebreak soon gains a junction on the ridge and a left turn before carrying on up the hill. After a bit of grunt, there’s a 4WD service road for, well, more grunt.
All up, it’s around 6km to South Climie, with around 650m of vertical gain. The first half, through lemonwood and regenerating forest, is noticeably steeper than the second; by the time you’ve done this, you’ll have ticked off nearly 500m of gain. You’ll know when you’ve reached the gentler higher sections, as red beech and mountain toi abound. It’s then only a few steps further before moss-strewn silver beech proliferates on Climie’s cloud-crowned ridge.
It’s not until arriving at the first of several telecommunications structures that it becomes apparent you’re on the summit ridge. Up here, you can expect to be blasted by wind at any moment and temperatures can drop quickly. Even in early summer, beanies and thermals may be required.
At north Climie trig, there are good views over Upper Hutt. However, it’s south Climie, the higher summit one kilometre along, that really takes the prize. Here, the scene opens over the spine of the Remutaka Range. Climie Creek carves into the Pakuratahi catchment. The wild Tararua Range lies to the north and, to the east and south, the muddy shallows of Lake Wairarapa contrast with distant Cape Palliser cutting into the blue depths of the Pacific Ocean. To the south is Wellington Harbour and Mana Island.
Ecologically, Climie is unique. Its exposed tops are covered by the only snowgrass in the relatively low-lying Remutaka Range. This provides nice contrast to the forest giants in Tunnel Gully, as well as the vegetation bands in between.
The way down from Climie is a return down the 4WD track.
Make sure you’re back by sundown – Tunnel Gully lies within Pakuratahi Forest and the gate closes after dusk.
For those less inclined to tackle Climie’s summit, the well-graded Tane’s Track is a worthwhile short loop through established native forest.