South Island Shenanigans – Mt Owen Tramping

After being back in NZ for approximately 24 hours we had a campervan, our gear, food, petrol and enough beer to last a week without civilisation. We bid farewell to the awesome Irish couple who so kindly housed and fed us on our first night back in the country, and trundled up to Kahurangi National Park ( Nelson side ) through the Lewis Pass. Our home for the next week was Courthouse Flat, a pretty epic DOC campsite nestled down an 14km gravel road and a great base for the tramping  and cave diving about to occur the following days. I helped the boys set up by hiking up some tanks and dive kit to the site, about a half hour trek and then our week began! While the boys set about exploring underneath the ground in the Mt Owen area, I decided to go tramping. Which left pretty much one direction to be walked. Up.

So with the backpack packed and the warm clothes on, I began! My route was from Courthouse flat – Granity Pass hut – Mt Owen summit – Granity Pass hut – Courthouse Flat.

The 6 hour (actually only about four going a mild pace) hike to the hut was pretty gruelling and hard on the legs and concentration as it went through slippery forest to steep rock steps to a dry rocky river bed to overgrown vegetation . It was great! Absolutely love the backcountry huts we have in NZ we are so lucky to have such a great network of accessible huts. Granity pass hut was a ten bunk standard hut set in a beautiful location and was a great base for the 7 hour return hike to the summit of Mt Owen which I achieved the next day. The hut has all the usual facilities, plentiful water, allgood toilet and a solid base for cooking and chilling out after a long day, and the vertical hiking done hours before!

I decided to get up before the sun to get a headstart on a potentially long day. Also, as I was by myself and climbing a mountain, I wanted extra time especially because I had to return to courthouse flat by sundown as was the arrangement made with the boys.

Leaving unnecessary stuff at the hut, I started the day wearing three layers and a beanie and gloves. The temperature was just above zero and it was still a clear starry sky which I knew it was going to be a banger of a day.

 It was a beautiful sunrise and I had great conditions only a tad of wind as I followed the very rough route marked by rock cairns out of the valley and over a saddle to where there were a couple of tarns before the start of the rock hopping and rough route to the summit.

There was a bit of ice around and out of the sun it was bitterly cold, for this time of year anyway. At the summit the views were insane, like nothing I’ve seen before. To the north could see all up to golden bay and across Kahurangi national park, to the west coast and south over the southern alps.

I spent a whopping twenty minutes at the summit as I was freezing, and also saw some cloud that was creeping up. It’s really not a mountain you want crap visibility in, because whoops, over the side you could go. Coming down took a little while, because I stopped often to take photos and also because downhill slopes always get me with my bad knees. A couple of hours later and I was back at the hut cooking up some tasty noodles and a cup of tea. I still had four and a bit hours of rugged downhill to go.

I got back into the rhythm quick enough and going back the same track I knew what was ahead of me. But man, going downhill on such rock, rough terrain requires a lot of concentration for so many continuous hours so I made plenty of small stops and water breaks to give the knees a rest.

I came back down the ridge for the last two hours which was pretty exposed and the sun was hot, such a difference to the near zero conditions of that morning. I had a really good afternoon and was pretty stoked with life after such an epic days tramping..

A beer or two were definitely in order after such a good two days!

For infor about the track go to


  1. Hey –great narration of a lovely couple of days treking. Enjoyed all your descriptive comments of the challenges of uphill and downhill on the bod.

    Cheers. C


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