Peak Hill - Lake Coleridge
Peak Hill - In the Beginning
Yippee! We've been hiking all day in the blazing summer sun - up Peak Hill, which has wonderful, amazing, stupendous, awe-inspiring views the whole way up the track.
And from the summit, at 1240m, the views are even more wonderful, amazing, stupendous, awe-inspiring... Get the picture?
At the summit cairn, reached after two hours of gentle plodding, we can look along the wide braided river valleys of the Rakaia, Mathais, and Wilberforce, then down to the brilliantly blue Lake Coleridge, and over to rows and rows of distant mountain ranges. We are so tiny in comparison, right in the middle of this beautifully rugged world.
Peak Hill Summit Cairn
There are no sheltering shade trees or bush - the vegetation is all scrubby tussock with lots of Celmisia, Aciphylla, and short stubby Matagouri. These last two are spiky, scratchy sub-alpine shrubs, reaching mid-calf in height - just perfect to tickle any passing legs. Ouch!
Aciphylla - Spaniard Grass
Notice the word 'hill', and remember this is the South Island of New Zealand. Peak Hill is therefore an isolated mini-mountain. The trip is rather simple in concept. For two hours we go up, and up, and up some more. But we get amazing views right from the very first footstep. After every minute of the 600 meter ascent we see more of the lake, more of the river valley, and so on. So it's eyes wide open, stop to look around, have a drink, and absolutely no sulking possible with these incredible views.
Peak Hill Top Ridge
Top Ridge Track
The top ridge track to the summit is exciting, being totally exposed to the sun and wind (and the views). But it's never scary - the track meanders safely up spurs and transforms into an easy zig-zag when the gradient gets a bit steep. There's a cairn at the summit and a board explaining the state of the glacial valleys. Originally the ice completely filled up these valleys, and even covered up Peak Hill itself. No person-made history lurks here - just geology.
Going down is fun. New perspectives down the ridgeline are rather alarming - the descent seems blocked by rocks, and what's coming ahead seems horribly precipitous (it's not). And of course there's a spiritual deflation (just a tiny one) when descending back to car-level. But that's balanced with thoughts of a nice cup of coffee at the Hororata cafe on the drive home...
Comparison with the Lake District
Earlier in the week my friend and I had both couch-hiked up the Haystack in the Lake District and sat our virtual bottoms on summit rocks above an English lake (watching a TV programme called Wainwright Walks). Comparisons with Peak Hill's summit view of Lake Coleridge need not be elaborated on here. Suffice it to say that our New Zealand mountains are bigger, the views grander, the lake bluer, the valleys much more amazing, the track much more challenging, the weather better...
Peak Hill Summit
Apologies to the thousands of ardent British fell-walkers, but you'd all probably find Peak Hill too rugged, and too empty - no other walkers, and not a farmhouse, or a B'n'B, or a pub for miles. The Hororata cafe does do a great hiker's afternoon tea, though...
Peak Hill (PDF 5 MB)
We saved the route from the GPS and produced this topographical map. It's in a PDF form, and you're welcome to download it.