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Mid Dome, Southland

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Mid Dome towers above SH6 halfway between Invercargill and Queenstown and offers spectacular views of the surrounding mountains.

This is a simple and easily followed route using a farm 4WD trail from bottom to top.

At least half of the track is on private land and access permission needs to be sought from the landowner.

It starts through a farm gate at the foot of Mid Dome and leads across a paddock to a farm track that heads south for a few hundred metres and then begins a long zigzag up the western slopes of the mountain. 

On a cold winter’s day, the track will be firm and snow can be expected at the top. In spring and autumn, the track can be muddy due to animal and farm vehicle movements.

The zigzags continue to the 740m contour, where the track once again turns southwards to gain a spur that leads to Pt1300. 

The climb eases slightly, passing through tussock that is competing for space with thousands of pine seedlings. These are not Pinus radiata, commonly planted for timber, but Pinus contorta, the most vigorously spreading conifer in New Zealand. It threatens landscape values, biodiversity and farming productivity.

Pinus contorta was introduced to Mid Dome during the late 1960s in an attempt to stabilise high country pastures that were eroding due to excessive burning, high stocking rates and the impact of rabbits. The solution was effective, and the pines quickly took hold on the mountain’s western slopes. However, 30 years later, the trees were spreading beyond control and efforts have been made to keep them in check. 

In 2006, a group of locals formed the Mid Dome Wilding Trees Charitable Trust. The trust monitors the spread of pines and organises working bees to remove them.   

At around 1120m, the track heads in a northerly direction, sidling beneath Pt1300 and gradually rising to a saddle between this high point and Mid Dome. There’s a couple of gates on this track (remember the rule of walking across farmland is to leave all gates the way you find them). The last gate marks the border between the farm, Mid Dome and Cupola Conservation Areas. It’s public conservation land with native alpine vegetation – mainly tussock. 

From the saddle, a track heads south to Pt1300 and beyond to Cupola (1368m), while the path to Mid Dome follows a fenceline up the peak’s southern ridge. Near the top, it sidles along the 1400m contour to another track junction to the north of the summit. The route then turns back on itself to gain the summit. 

On a clear day, the reward is a panorama of farmland fringed with snow-capped mountains, including views of Mataura Range, Eyre Mountains, Oreti Valley and East and West domes. The return trip via the same route takes about two hours.  

Total Ascent
Easy / Moderate
From Queenstown, follow SH6 south to a rest area 7km north of Five Rivers. To access the tops, gain permission from the manager of Rent A Bull farm, organise in groups and aim to visit during the weekend. Check with DOC that the conservation land is open, as it can be closed during wilding pine control operations.

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