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St James Range camping, St James Conservation Area

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August 2022 Issue

The St James Range offers numerous opportunities to climb high and camp beside a mountain tarn with exceptional views over valleys and the Spenser Mountains.

Maling Pass (1308m), west of Lake Tennyson, offers an easy approach to the middle section of the St James Range. It’s reached via the 4WD road and cycleway that skirt the Clarence River and cut over the pass to the Waiau Valley. 

From the car park, the St James Cycle Trail skirts the toe of the St James Range on the south bank of Princess Stream, which is followed to Maling Pass (the last section is actually beside Maling Stream). 

A bridge crosses Sandy Stream, then the cycle trail continues up a steeper section onto a large terrace. It continues alongside Princess Stream for 2–3km before climbing steadily to Maling Pass. Just as the climb begins, the head of Princess Stream comes into full view and the dramatic face of Mt Princess towers over the valley head. 

The upper section of the road climbs above the small, swampy valley through which Maling Stream runs. The hills close in here and the trail steepens over its final kilometre.

At Maling Pass, turn south and strike uphill towards Pt1600. This is the steepest part of the route and gains 300m in one kilometre. From Pt1600 it’s easier as you head over several minor summits and past numerous tarns, all of which offer fine camping opportunities and spectacular views. 

By keeping to the west, these summits can be bypassed some 40–80m below them. Most of the tarns are encountered here as the terrain is moderate and undulates into small hollows and folds among tussock and scree. The best tarn is located at Pt1672 – a small saddle between Pt1781 and Pt1793. A narrow trough offers several campsites, partly sheltered and with luxuriant grasses providing soft bedding.

The views are unequaled, including Mts Una, Enid and Humbolt, all in excess of 2000m. It is certainly worth timing your visit during a spell of gentle, clear weather.

The range proper can be traversed all the way to Mt Stanley (1860m), the principal summit. 

Those wishing to return by a different route can descend Sandy Stream and follow it back to the St James Cycle Trail. It’s unmarked but leads through a beautiful valley alongside a pleasant grassy streambed. The descent is best made just north of the stream which drains the tarn. Follow this past a small bluff and boglands to the valley floor and then continue in a south-easterly direction until the U-bend in the steam below Pt1408. From here the route heads north-east until the cycle trail is reached. 

8.81km to Pt1672
Total Ascent
To Maling Pass, 90min; to Pt1672, 2hr (return via Sandy Stream, 3hr)
From Hanmer Springs over Jacks Pass to just south of Lake Tennyson and the car park for the St James Cycleway. Follow the cycleway/4WD trail to Maling Pass.

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