Avalanche Peak

This is the most popular day walking peak at Arthur’s Pass. It is the only peak in Arthur’s Pass that is marked by a poled route to the summit

Time: 6 - 8 hr return 

Type: Walking Track

Start the hike by registering your intentions at the Information Centre. While this is "just" a day trip you are still venturing into alpine territory and should be prepared.

Hike north along the road from the village for about half a kilometre. The track starts just around a corner from an old seat on the hillside past the first stream that you reach. If you get to McGarth Creek then you have walked much too far!

The start of the track is at a height of 780m. Your heart will get a bit of a work-out as the track rises steeply until it is free of the roadside. However this section is short and the track soon begins to sidle across and up the slope. Within half an hour you come to a small bridge across a stream. This is a good spot for a rest and to refill your water bottles. In another half hour you come to the next good spot. Just short of the 1000m contour the track breaks out of the mountain beech forest and into a clearing. From here there are good views along the valley and a peek across the pass. You may also think that you hear a jet engine - the roar is the Devils Punchbowl Waterfalls across the valley (the rock walls around the falls focus the sound on this slope).

Back into the bush, the track swings up onto a ridge leading south above the slopes you have just traversed. The bush soon becomes scrub on either side of the exposed ridge. At one point (at about the 1200m mark) you can look down and across Wardens Creek to the roof of a house in the village - about 400m below you. The ridge is not gentle as it rises 300m in a distance of 500 metres. Take your time and admire the views as they open up across McGarth Creek to Rome Ridge and Mt. Rolliston.

After an hours walking, you ascend a final steep section to emerge onto a small tussock-filled plateau. This is where I took the photo at the top of the page and where the first patch of snow was met. The path can be seen winding its way up the right-hand ridge. The Avalanche Creek Track climbs the left-hand ridge, avoiding the steep slopes near the summit by rising through the top snowfield to join Scotts Track.

Follow the track upwards and onto the ridge. There are a few steepish pitches on the way to the top but nothing to worry about. At a couple of points it is worthwhile to detour (carefully!) onto the rocky points overlooking McGarth Creek. The hardest thing I found about this section was a strong and cold west wind blowing me away from the ridge. When you start to thread your way through some large boulders then you are nearly at the top. The last challenge is the knife-edge ridge leading to the top itself. It is less than 20 metres long but will test those without a head for heights.

The top is a splendid place for lunch. It is a bit small - no flat space at all - so you may find yourself sitting a little down-slope from the summit. The views are out of this world. Mt. Rolliston (2275m) looms to the north with Crow Glacier extending westwards to a vertical icefall. If you are lucky then you may hear ice thundering down into the Crow Valley. Straight across the valley are the ramparts of Jellicoe Ridge. If you look beyond the end of Jellicoe Ridge there is the sharp peak of Mt. Greenlaw (2315m) with Mt. Murchison (at 2408m the highest mountain in the park) to its right. Swinging further to your left there is the ridge leading to Lyell Peak and Mt. Bealey (a track climbs from the village to Mt. Bealey). Looking back along the track there are the many peaks on the other side of the pass - Mt. Temple, Blimit, Mt. Cassidy, Mt. Aicken, etc.

Having drunk in the views and fortified the inner person, it is time to return. If you are returning via Avalanche Creek then follow the pairs of poles marking the track back until a set of posts dive to the right down the slopes.

Warning: In winter this track is subject to avalanche hazard. In winter conditions you must carry snow and ice climbing equipment and know how to use it.

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