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Mt Richmond – Mt Fell Circuit, Mt Richmond Forest Park

Climbing Mt Fell – an hour from the turn-off to Mt Fell Hut. Photo: Ray Salisbury
Total Ascent
Top Valley Rd to Richmond Saddle Hut, 3-4hr; Richmond Saddle Hut to Mt Fell Hut, 4-5hr; Mt Fell Hut to Timms Valley, 5-6hr
Richmond Saddle Hut ($5, eight bunks); Mt Fell Hut ($5, six bunks)
From Northbank Rd, take Top Valley Rd for 6km BQ26
BQ26, BQ27
GPX File
Mt Richmond-Mt Fell Circuit (gpx, yo 54 KB)
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This two-to-three day loop to the summit of Mt Richmond includes Richmond Saddle Hut and Mt Fell Hut, running through bush-clad valleys and tussock tops.

Park at Jubilee Flat, or if the stream is low, ford Top Valley Stream and park on the top skid site on Jacksons Creek Road. This saves one hour of road-walking. Before leaving, check that logging operations have not restricted access up the valley.

The marked ridge track climbs a steep spur, but gradually eases to reach the valley head. The trail then sidles above Armchair Stream to reach Richmond Saddle Hut in about three hours. This hut is a great launching pad for an assault on Mt Richmond. There are ample tent sites.

The poled route east traverses unstable, rocky slopes which require good balance and confident footwork. Keep a lookout for the rare penwiper, vegetable sheep Raoulia eximia, the endemic daisy Celmisia macmahonii, and creamy white gentians.

A couple of hours’ grunt up 40-degree slopes of shattered scree and teetering boulders will put you on the summit of Mt Richmond, the second highest in the park (1760m). From the giant cairn, enjoy an extensive panorama that includes the Inland Kaikouras, Nelson Lakes, Kahurangi and, to the north, Mt Taranaki.

A short, sharp descent of the east ridge, over jumbled rocks and patches of scree, leads to a high tussock plateau. Weave through rocky ramparts to gain the saddle with Johnston Peak. (Leave packs here if you wish to bag Johnston Peak. Allow an hour for the return journey.)

The route sidles around Pt1613 and continues along an escarpment to a sign-posted junction on a broad saddle. If inclined, drop packs here and head north to bag Mt Fell. Or, drop off the plateau into the bush to where Mt Fell Hut squats among stunted beech.

From the hut, Mt Fell is an easy but adventurous jaunt from the track junction. Allow an hour to gain the summit (1602m).

To descend from Mt Fell Hut, the track sidles below the ramparts of Johnston Peak, below the treeline. After a sharp but short climb, a tedious 1000m descent ensues, down a forested spur to the valley floor. At the forks, in Timms Creek, the crossing can provide problems during wet weather. An easy track passes through attractive podocarp and mixed beech forest, along the true right bank to Timms Flat, a grassy picnic area with reasonable tent sites. Swimming is possible in the emerald green pools of Timms Creek. An old miner’s trail leads through exotic pines to the road end.