The Mountains View – Mt Harper(1829m)

“On a Mish” #83 The Mountain’s View. Mt Harper/Mahaanui(1829m). Hakatere Conservation Park. 7.7.2015. The large lumps that surround Lake Clearwater Village have watched over the tiny mountain town for a very long time. For a much shorter time I have returned to a crib in the village time and time again to look back up at the hills in awe. And sometimes I have been able to climb some of the peaks and check out the mountain’s view for myself…

Back to the crib in Lake Clearwater, and this time during the chilly winter of 2015. The mission’s objective was a snow-covered Mt Harper/Mahaanui(1829m). Apart from the distant twin peaks of Mt Potts, Mahaanui / Mt Harper is the largest mountain within grasp of the village, and the peak can be climbed easily in the shorter daylight hours of winter.

The hiking / mountain bike trail starts from Lake Camp just south of Lake Clearwater, making it perfect for a day trip to the area. After crossing the flat plains beneath the north face of Mt Harper / Mahaanui the track then enters the Balmacaan Valley and follows the true right of Balmacaan Stream to Balmacaan Saddle(1150m). The top of the saddle is worth a visit, with excellent views overlooking the Rangitata River and many of its side valleys. Even just hiking up to the saddle is very rewarding with many sights to see!

The day I decided to tackle Mt Harper it was July and the mountain was wearing a thick coating of snow and ice. Crampons and an ice axe was a must, especially on the exposed ridges high on Mahaanui.

Lakes Clearwater(left) and Camp(right)

Of course being me I decided on something different from the norm and opted to climb a spur about 1km down from Balmacaan Saddle. The large spur led directly to the summit and offered fantastic views back towards Lake Clearwater on the way up.

The climb, although a little bit steep in places, was very straightforward and I didn’t encounter any issues getting up the spur and onto the tops of the range. I was now at a point where every time I stopped to have a rest and drink I would have exceptional views in nearly every direction.

The hike was slowed by deep drifts of snow and the remaining metres to the top was on easy ground that was perfect for collecting and storing the winter white stuff. I huffed and puffed my way along the ridge with my head down and breath visible in the air. I was so focused on my feet that I only noticed the weather station on the summit just before I walked into it! Tired from a morning of mountain climbing I clambered up the last and highest of the snow-covered mounds and I was blown away by the view.

The rounded summit offers 360 degree views and I could see right up the Rangitata River to the junction of the Havelock and Clyde Rivers. Dividing the remote bodies of water is the bulky mass of Cloudy Peak(2403m) and its impressive range. The range stands tall between the rivers looking even more impressive than norm with a fresh coat of winter snow.

The day was outstandingly clear with only a cloud or two rolling by in the nearly windless sky. I took my time on the summit enjoying the high alpine environment and taking the time to get my breath back and prepare myself for the climb back to Lake Clearwater Village. I was up on the summit for about 45 minutes which is not something I normally do, but the day was awesome and I didn’t want to waste the opportunity to soak in the view.

Instead of following the way I came up I decided to drop down via a spur into the Balmacaan Valley. The ‘shortcut’ worked perfectly and once back down on the valley floor it was an easy wander along the track back to Lake Camp.

The lake is only a ten minute walk from the crib and after getting back to the comfort and warmth I gave my legs their first rest since leaving the summit. My body was well aware of what I had been up to, but the climb and views overshadowed the soreness in my legs. If you are someone who enjoys putting in the effort to get the rewards then Mahaanui should be added to your list of mountains to climb in Canterbury!

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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