Panoramic views over Kahurangi
The summit of Mt Gibbs offers spectacular views in every direction. Brown rocky ridgelines with patches of snow emerge from steep forest-clad mountains which stretch to the horizon.
It isn’t until the summit is reached that the picturesque Island Lake comes into view, making an unexpected but delightful centrepiece to the surrounding valleys. The rewards offered by visiting this spot are high when compared with the effort to get there.
From the Cobb Reservoir, it is an easy four-hour walk through a wide valley of alternating forest and open grassland to Fenella Hut. Dotted along the way are other huts offering excellent lunch and snack stops.
Chaffey Hut, reached after 90-minutes, is a unique and cute three bunk log-cabin hut, maintained by the Golden Bay Deer Stalkers. Midway, Tent Camp, as the name suggests, boasts an A-frame style canvas-sided structure. There are picnic tables outside both huts.
The walk to Fenella Hut is relatively flat until the last section from Cobb Hut, where the track climbs a rocky section to arrive at Fenella Hut. The hut offers a level of comfort and luxury not often found in the backcountry, including a gas stove and an impressive array of kitchen utensils. The toilet is just as fancy, with a stained glass window in the door.
A 400m walk following a series of cairns from the hut leads to a marvellous swimming spot in a nearby tarn. The start of the track is well marked with a wooden sign.
From the swimming hole, there is a route marked by rock cairns to the summit of Mt Gibbs.
Follow the cairns through the interesting rock formations, initially heading south towards Lake Cobb. At a broad saddle just past Pt1186 and above the lake, the trail switches direction to head north through a short forested section across the lower east-facing slopes of Xenicus Peak. As the forest is left behind in favour of a tussocky alpine environment, the ascent on the north-eastern slopes of Xenicus steepens and the summit of Mt Gibbs appears ahead to the west.
The cairns in this section become few and far between but it is of little consequence as it is a straight-forward ascent on the tussock slopes to the ridge between Xenicus Peak and Mt Gibbs.
A final short climb up the ridge is required to reach the mountain’s summit, where the 360-degree view emerges in all its glory. Opportunities for further exploring present themselves by continuing along the ridges, either north to Aorere Peak or south-west to Pt1574.
To make a loop back to Fenella Hut, it is relatively straightforward to pick a path through the rocky southern slope of Mt Gibbs to Round Lake. The Cobb Lake Track then leads back to Cobb Hut and on to Fenella Hut. When the lake level is high, an old but well-worn unmarked trail exists, slightly further into the forest from the lake edge.
With such a nice and well-equipped hut as Fenella, it is tempting to spend multiple nights to fully explore the area.
– Sarah Inglewood
- 15.9km to Mt Gibbs
- Total Ascent
- Car park to Fenella Hut, 3-4hr; To Mt Gibbs, 2-3hr
- Fenella Hut ($15, 12 bunks)
- From Cobb River Campsite, Cobb Dam Road
- BP23, BP24