This beautiful walk offers grand views of glacial valleys and can be walked in any season. By Edward Hathway
For some, the northern end of Kā Tiritiri o te Moana / the Southern Alps begins at Lewis Pass, on the border of Canterbury and the West Coast. This puts Mt Technical (1870m) as the first significant alpine peak, and a worthy objective for any intrepid tramper. However, if its name suggests a level of adventure above your comfort zone, the nearby peak of Mt Norma (1722m) may hold greater attraction. This peak has a decent height and all the epic attendant views of this beautiful region. And the route up one long ridge presents a manageable challenge for those with some off-track experience, particularly if winter tramping skills need development.
The route starts on the Nina Valley Track, 100m north along the road from the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association’s Palmer Lodge, where there is car parking. The Lewis River is immediately crossed on a swingbridge, and soon after there’s a sign for the Mt Norma Access Track.
The marked track heads up the eastern slopes of Norma through beech forest before reaching the ridge that leads roughly north all the way to the summit. As the treeline is approached the track becomes less regularly marked, but by then the vegetation is more open. Re-entry to the forest is marked by a big orange triangle. Note its location for direction on the descent.
From here the ridge is followed to the summit over Pt1532m and Pt1642. In winter, and perhaps spring, crampons and ice axe may be needed, but sticking to the sometimes rocky ridge makes for a fairly straightforward ascent.
There are increasingly good views above the treeline culminating in a 360-degree vista from the summit. To the east is the long, neat line of peaks comprising the Libretto Range, where there are excellent day walks and mountains with enticing names: Faust, Mephistopheles, Mt Lucia, and further north are Travers Peak and Trovatore. Further north still are taller peaks in the Spenser Range, like Philosophers Knob, Faerie Queen and Gloriana. It’s all high culture and high peaks.
Watch your step on the return, there are plenty of views to distract.