Arthurs Village from Above (Part Two) – Mt Aicken(1863m)

“On a Mish” #174 Arthurs Village from Above (Part Two). Mt Aicken(1863m). Arthurs Pass National Park. 4.9.2014. From 1907 to 1923 Arthurs Pass Village was a hive of activity, thanks to the construction of the Otira Rail Tunnel. The 8.5km tunnel is an impressive effort of engineering and hard labour, and is best viewed while on the famous Tranzalpine Express. After the tunnel’s construction, life settled down to a slower pace and the village got much quieter. Nearly 90 years later I was high above the little mountain town enjoying the peace, enroute to the summit of Aicken Peak…

I climbed higher, and with every water break I would look back towards the highway and hear the groans of truck and bus engines as they used their brakes while descending Arthur Dudley Dobson’s mighty mountain road.

I was now on the route above the treeline which follows the southwest ridge. The ridge was a mix of snow and rock, and this meant my crampons were on and off all morning. I am always amazed at the fact that people used to climb snow and ice without crampons. Putting your faith in hobnailed boots meant the climbers had to be confident in their abilities. I’m much happier the twelve spikes of my crampons over what is like the spikes found on cricket shoes!

I knew I was nearing the top of the peak however, to my surprise, because I was hiking with my head down I was on the summit before I knew it. The last sections had me in a real rhythm and I’m sure I could have climbed much higher that day.

The view from the top was brilliant, considering Mt Aicken(1863m) is one of the ‘smaller’ peaks in the area. Its central location within the national park makes for outstanding views of the many snowy peaks, valleys, and rivers. I could see down the impressive Bealey River to the mighty Waimakariri River, which flows all the way over the Canterbury Plains to the Pacific Ocean. The fine weather would normally mean I could stay on the summit for a long time, but other commitments meant I had to return to Christchurch that afternoon. After a few quick pics I was on the move again.

On the descent I didn’t take any chances with the snow patches, which had lethal run offs down into the Devils Punchbowl Valley. One slip would not end well even of it is a quicker way down. Just like on the way up I had plenty of opportunities to refine my crampon attaching and detaching speed. Like with rock climbing or any time using ropes, I like to take my time to make sure everything is neat and, more importantly, strapped to my feet correctly.

It didn’t take too long before I was onto the rock and then back onto the track which leads to the forest above the Devils Punchbowl Falls. As the sound of the waterfall increased so too did the presence of other humans. By the time I got to village level it was midday and the village was in business, with people all over the place marvelling at the mountains that towered above them.

Mt Aicken was another excellent Arthurs Pass peak to add to the done list and I’d recommend it to those with a good head for heights. In winter and spring, crampons and an ice axe are essential. Arthurs Pass Village is a great place for a visit with walks / hikes / tramps for all abilities. The village looks good from road level but even better from above!

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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