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January 2014 Issue
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Visual symphony

The Libretto Range marches into the distance from the Lewis Pass tops. Photo: Pat Barrett
2hr to tarns
A marked track starts at the summit of Lewis Pass opposite (west side) where a car park and picnic area mark the start of the St James Walkway.

Lewis Pass tops, Lewis Pass Scenic Reserve

With the promise of a fine day and a good walk ahead, I headed for one of my all time favourite locations – the Lewis Pass tops.

This area of the Main Divide lies to the south-west of Lewis Pass, where SH7 cuts through the pass itself before climbing a shoulder to access the Maruia Valley. A track here climbs the hillside to the west, through silver and mountain beech festooned with old man’s beard on the higher slopes, to reach the bushline in a small hollow below the main ridge. Beyond, the route upwards is poled for some distance until the crest is gained and the visual symphony of the Lewis Pass tops is revealed.

This is an unutterably beautiful landscape – subtle, nuanced, and sublime. To walk it on a fine day in any season, is pure pleasure and richly rewarding. In spring and summer there is the added dimension of a richly patterned landscape, thickly vegetated with luxuriant tussock, cushion plants, flowers and carpet grasses.

This collage of plant life is set beside a random collection of glittering tarns punctuating the verses of the landscape, comprised of hollows, ridges, valleys, peaks and sky. The tarns are exquisite and provide superb foregrounds for photos of the many faceted peaks of the Alps, from the tawny Freyberg Range to the north all the way along to the spires and turrets of the Spenser Mountains which march north-eastwards into Nelson Lakes National Park.

South of the tops is the more spacious and less oppressive Lewis Valley, its upper region formed by the hanging basins of Deer Valley beneath the citadel of Mount Technical – the highest summit south of the Spenser Mountains.

Roving the ridge top I poked my lens into numerous watery hollows trying to capture at least an excerpt of this poetic landform, so beautiful and yet so fleeting, highlighted for the moment of my visit by season and light, cloud and shade, only to vanish as the day advanced.