Lording it over Hanmer
Mt Percival on the Hanmer Range towers over Hanmer Springs in north Canterbury, though officially it is actually in Marlborough. It is one of those summits that appears to be a long way from anywhere and consequently is considered too difficult to reach on a day trip. But if you study the map, you’ll see this tantalising summit is easily accessible from Tophouse Road.
Our trek to the summit did involve an overnight camp in the Clarence Valley, out of sight of the road, which is a requirement for camping here, and a very early start on the 900m climb to the summit.
It’s an exciting and interesting route, which should be studied a little from the roadside before heading up to avoid getting bluffed or bamboozled in some of the thick scrub which guards some approaches.
Our route started just south of Pt834m, in the river valley and headed south up a spur to Pt992, and then more steeply south-east to a saddle on an outlying ridge of Mt Percival.
As we gained height, the great expanse of Molesworth and the Clarence Valley came into view which made us hasten our steps to the ridgetop, where we took a rest on the luxuriant mountain tussocks of the upper Ribble Stream. This is a remote catchment which feeds into the Clarence and has a magnificent head basin at 1300m filled with waving tussock.
From here, we climbed south along the ridge to Pt1507, had a bite of lunch and eyed the summit of Percival beyond a deep saddle and just over 1km away. We willed it to move closer.
It was tempting to stay at our sub-summit and just enjoy the view which was already very impressive, taking in the Hanmer Plain, distant Canterbury Plains, Clarence Valley, and Molesworth. But duty called, or some such compulsion, and we reluctantly gathered our gear and headed down into the saddle and up again, very steeply onto the high, bare, exposed and windy summit slopes. They were demoralising. The ridge curls back ever so slowly once you are off the steep flanks and loose scree underfoot sapped our remaining energy. Yet once the bit is between the teeth, it was hard to give in until eventually the summit cairn was reeled in and we could sit once more and enjoy the full 360-degree view, which now captured the full breadth and depth of the Hanmer Range as it snakes over from the distant Lewis Pass Highway to the mid-Clarence Valley. It’s a great peak to add to your collection, and we were pleased to have it in the bag – well almost, we still had the steep descent back to the road ahead of us.
Oh well, there’s no free lunch in the hills, unless you consider that view.