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Mt Torlesse, Korowai/Torlesse Tussocklands Park

Image of the November 2023 Wilderness Magazine Cover Read more from the
November 2023 Issue

Mt Torlesse offers a challenging climb and breathtaking panoramic views of Canterbury’s mountain ranges and plains. By Verity Jackson

This walk starts at a rest area opposite the historic Porters Pass roadman’s hut on SH73, where there’s ample parking. A nondescript locked gate marks the entrance to the Kowai River Valley and Korowai–Torlesse Tussocklands Park beyond.  

Climb the gate to access a 4WD track that crosses private land (permission is only necessary if you want to stay at Kowai Hut, which is private).

The easy track follows the true right of the Kowai River with a brief 50m river section and two gates (leave them as you find them). The many old power poles along the way once carried telephone and electricity to Kowai Hut, which was built in 1973 for a Lincoln University hydrology study.

Just before Foggy Stream, the track turns right at cairns. It crosses Foggy Stream and continues as a vague ground trail by Kowai River until Kowai Hut becomes visible about 1.5hr from the trail head.

Cross Kowai Stream and follow its true left towards the tussock terrace and the main south-west ridge that leads directly to Mt Torlesse (1961m). Once you leave the river there is no more water.

On the terrace it is easy to pick up the well-worn but unmarked ground trail, which leads to the base of Torlesse’s south-west ridge. The ridge starts gradually before climbing steeply for 1100m to the summit. The trail stays on the ridge all the way to the summit, with a few zigzags, and is straightforward if there is no snow underfoot. However, route finding and navigation skills are essential at any time of the year.

At the summit are a large rock cairn and the remains of what may once have been a trig. Outstanding views encompass the Torlesse Range, Big Ben Range and Canterbury Plains to the east, and the Craigieburn Range to the west. 

From here it’s possible to continue on to Red Peak (1935m), Junction Peak (1882m), Back Peak (1979m) and Otarama Peak (1963m). It’s also possible to make a circuit by returning south along the north-east ridge of Mt Torlesse and crossing points 1723, 1152, 1211 and 1261 before dropping to the Kowai River. However, the lower slopes do require a fair bit of bush bashing to reach the river flats.

16.6km return
Total Ascent
Moderate / Difficult
8-9hr return
Permission to stay at Kowai Hut can be sought from Brooksdale Station, 03 318 4748
Carpark just off SH73, before Porters Pass

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