Over the weekend Matt thought it was time for us to harden up (mostly me) and do another tramp to the summit of one of our local mountains. This weekend he decided to choose Mt Barrosa which rises to a thrilling 1364 m above sea level. While the walk distance for this tramp only says 3.5 km (one way) do not let this deceive you. Maybe, as I did not do prior to this walk, dwell on how a 3.5 km track may take you 2.5 hours to walk?
The track is accessible off Ashley Gorge Road between the Stour River bridge and Blowing Point bridge. If you are coming from Mt Somers township then if you see Blowing Point bridge you have gone too far. The tramp starts out in a valley that heads up Mt Barrosa. The beginning of the track winds up a fence line along private property and you do have to wade or stone step across a couple of small creeks. After this you go over a stile and from here the tramp really begins. Not only do you start heading directly uphill you start seeing more of your mountain plant species such as tussocks.
This walk is very much one where you just need to put one foot in front of another, and take it at your own speed. It is set as an advanced walking track by the Department of Conservation, and it is definitely not an easy walk. You will need proper tramping boots and some walking sticks would not go amiss if you already have a set of those. There is next to no shelter on this walk so bear that in mind. It can either get quite hot with not a lot of shade, which is what we experienced, or it can get quite windy and cold. I have had to abandon walks in the area for this reason, so please pick your day, and if the weather goes south then re-assess whether it is safe for you to carry on.
The first third of the journey is the least difficult, even though it will feel like it isn’t. It ls less difficult mainly as the incline is less steep and the track has better footholds then what you will find further along the track. This will head you up to what we termed ‘the first summit’. This is not the end of the track even though you might think it is. You cannot see the summit of Mt Barrosa from the road where the track begins. The first third of the track will walk you up to the first ridgeline, where there is a place to stop with some huge rocks that provide minimal shade. From this lookout you can get a great view of Sandy’s Knob to your left, Mt Possession behind that and Trinity Hill off to your right if you are looking back down the valley. You then skirt around the rock, up a small ridgeline and you are into the next part of the journey.
From here the walk really sets in, and the second third is the hardest part of the climb. This third of the climb will bring you past a couple of rocky outcrops before you start zig-zagging your way up the never-ending hill to the second, and final ridgeline. This part of the walk will feel as it takes the longest, as you slowly head towards the crest of the mountain on the horizon. For me, it barely seemed like it was getting any closer. The track on this walk is not as well defined, and you will need to use the fluro markers to use as reference points on which direction you should be heading. Once you reach the top of the crest, before heading over the ridgeline, take a moment to look out over the Canterbury plains to the sea, and take note of the Rakaia River. This view east, gives a gorgeous view of the local farmland that is so symbolic of the Canterbury region.
After this you head along the ridgeline. I must admit that this was more uphill than I originally anticipated. When looking at the ridgeline from afar you may be like ‘Yay that looks less steep, so my poor tired legs will get a break.. active recovery.. that’s an exercise principle, I will get active recovery’. It’s a lie, and you’re welcome to tell yourself this as it can really help, but once you get to the ridge, it definitely feels like more than just active recovery. The markers are far apart on this part of the journey, so stick to the fenceline and you will see a faint trail that meanders alongside. This part of the journey is still easier than the climb to the ridgeline as it is less steep which makes for easier walking. For me while the track was less steep my legs were so tired that this didn’t really make much of a difference. You might see some native skinks running around on this part of the journey as I did, I have added my video here for you.
The view from the top is extraordinary and there is a lot you can see. You do get these outlook views earlier in the walk, but they are definitely more impressive from a higher altitude. The view gives you a good look at Lake Clearwater and Lake Camp, the Two Thumbs ranges, the South branch of the Ashburton river and Mt D’Archiac (which will be the snow covered peak in the distance) to your left and to your right you will see the rest of the Client Hills in the foreground and the Arrowsmith range, including the snow covered peak of Mt Arrowsmith in the far distance. To your far right you will be able to see the Palmer range which includes the peaks of Smite and Godley.
The way down can be just as hard on the body as the way up. Be sure to try an take steps with bent knees, and not jar your legs as you walk down or you will end up with very sore knees by the time you get to the bottom. We collected some river water on the way back down from one of the creeks, and this is generally safe so long as you don’t notice any stock grazing as you walk through.
In a lot of ways this track reminded me of walking Little Mt Peel. Mainly due to the track route, how you head up to one ridgeline, then progress onto the second ridgeline to the peak. Mt Barrosa does stand 50 m taller and the track is more exposed. I think the tracks are of about the same advancement, although the beginning of Little Mt Peel does ease you into the walk where you don’t get that so much with Mt Barrosa. Mt Barrosa so far seems the most similar to Peak Hill which is a walk situated near Lake Coleridge, mostly in terms of initial ascent. We ended up having to abandon our tramp up Peak Hill due to the ridge being quite exposed, and a very cold wind blowing. I think should we do it again, it would be very similar to climbing Mt Barrosa. At various points om this track you can actually view the peaks of Little Mt Peel and Mt Peel.
On the way out we drove further along the Ashburton Gorge Road to get a photo of the summit from the road, as you can see the summit if you drive towards Lake Camp and Lake Clearwater. I have circled the summit so you know what you will end up accomplishing at the end of they day. It is quite impressive, and does make the hard work you put into climbing it, when you see it from the road.
For Department of Conservation information on the Mt Barrosa walk view here.