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Peggys Peak to South King, Tararua Forest Park

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May 2018 Issue

Seven slightly easier peaks

Most have heard of the Seven Summits challenge, where climbers scale the highest point on each of the world’s seven continents. But there’s also a seven summits challenge much closer to home.

Given fair conditions, a circuit beginning and ending at Mitre Flats Hut which links seven points above 1500m, including 1571m Mitre, the highest point in Tararua Forest Park, can be completed in a long day.

It was this circuit that a friend and I did in summer. In clear weather, the entire route linking the 1500m points is quite obvious to follow and, while a dramatic and undulating landscape, in summer it is mostly quite straightforward to negotiate. It took us 12 hours – longer than we had expected on account of a particularly difficult section linking Baldy Ridge, our exit route from the tops, with Mitre Flats Hut.

But the day was well worth enduring that tiring sting in the tail. The trail accessing the tops from Mitre Flats Hut is a particularly easy one by Tararua standards, ascending relatively gradually for the first 700m or so through beech forest before breaching the bushline. We reached Peggys Peak (1545m), the first of the 1500ers in three hours. The only hitch was a wasp strike at about 700m, leaving an irritating welt on the back of my head.

Looking south from beneath the summit of Mitre to Peggys Peak. Photo: Peter Laurenson

It’s a short but spectacular stroll from Peggys Peak to Mitre. Here, we enjoyed a brief glimpse of our route north-west to Brocket (1538m) and then south-west to Girdlestone (1546m) and on to Adkin (1450m) and the Three Kings – North King (1535m), Middle King (1521m) and South King (1531m). It is all along classic Tararua tops, sometimes on a knife-edge ridge with the steepest, most exposed section coming off Girdlestone. Descending Mitre, we were engulfed in the cloud – a blessing and a curse. It offered relief from the sun but made for much more challenging route finding. At a couple of points, we needed the compass, particularly after climbing Girdlestone, which is at the junction of several ridges.

As the day wore on, we oscillated between striking vistas and whiteout. Beyond Girdlestone, the route is sometimes on steep and exposed rock, which added to the interest and kept us focused. It would be a different story in high winds or icy conditions – this terrain deserves respect.

Between Girdlestone and Adkin, there are views of the craggy Broken Axe Pinnacles. These were beyond our route though, as Baldy Ridge descends south-east just before they are reached.

Between North and Mid King we noticed a ridge on the east side that, if descended for 350m or so, would bring us to a good camping spot right beside a tarn and above Baldy Ridge.

There is more than one route off Baldy. We opted for the longer track marked on the map. In hindsight, we felt the more direct un-marked option down an eastern spur would have been better as it cuts out the worst of the two-hands-required, steep up and down found on the marked route.

Total Ascent
Car park to Mitre Flats Hut, 3-4hr; Hut to Peggys Peak, 3-4hr; Peggys Peak to South King, 5-7hr; Baldy Ridge to Mitre Flats Hut, 3-4hr
Mitre Flats Hut ($15, 14 bunks)
From Upper Waingawa Road
BP34, BN34

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