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Mt White, Hāwea Conservation Park

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November 2023 Issue

This is the perfect spring trip – there’s still snow on the ground and on a good day the views will be memorable.

It’s a joyful time when spring days are finally upon us and longer, warmer trips in the hills become a possibility. Spring is a great time to tramp up peaks, and snow is still covering scree and rotten rock, at least in parts of the South Island mountains. The mornings are cold enough for crampons to bite, and maybe the afternoon snow will have softened enough for a bum-slide on descent.

Mt White, in the McKerrow Range off Haast Highway, is a perfect spring day trip. The track follows a legal easement over farmland to a gate marking the start of the Hāwea Conservation Park. It’s a very easy way to climb the initial 500m and passes through impressive regenerating forest lower down. 

The track continues into the middle reaches of Boundary Creek. However, to climb Mt White, once at the park boundary, leave the track and follow the fence line to the ridge. Initially the way is through open shrubland, but the slope becomes tussock-covered with interesting rocky features further up, and it’s easy to pick a route. 

From below Pt1579, the ridge is joined and offers fun and varied travel north for more than 2km to Mt White. It is not too challenging and is mostly broad and rolling with a couple of steeper sections, one leading up to Pt1729 and the other to the summit of Mt White itself. In winter and spring, crampons and ice axes will be required on this section. Along the ridge there are attractive rock outcrops, wind-blown saddles, and large, flat tarn-studded areas. 

The ridge is not technical, and the views add an exciting element to the trip. Tititea / Mt Aspiring pokes its head slightly above the many other snow-clad peaks of Mt Aspiring National Park, while other layers of snowy ridges appear along the horizon. Way below is the colourful mosaic of farm paddocks and shelterbelts in the Makarora valley. The braided Makarora River adds colour and texture as it merges with the deep, dark waters of Lake Wānaka. Views of the lake will be with you for the entire journey.

18km return
Total Ascent
Moderate / Difficult
10–12hr return
Boundary Creek Track to Hāwea Conservation Park, 7km south of Makarora township, Haast Highway

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