Where the Water Comes From – Water Tank Ridge

“On a Mish” #125 Where the Water Comes From. Water Tank Ridge. Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park. 25.1.2015. Towering above the western side of Aoraki/Mt Cook Village is Mt Kitchener(2042m), and even though it is the closest ‘big’ peak to the village, it receives less attention than it deserves. By far the easiest way to access the mountain is via the route to Mueller Hut, then traverse over the rounded dome of Mt Ollivier(1933m) and continue the short distance to the summit. With some time on my hands I needed a short, sharp challenge and the Water Tank Ridge was the perfect time filler…

A shorter and steeper route to the summit of Mt Kitchener is via a ridge directly behind the Hermitage Hotel, starting with a well cut track up to the hotel’s water tanks. Even the short stroll up to where the water comes from is worth your while. The added elevation gives you incredible views up the popular Hooker Valley and of all the giant mountains that surround it.

The track zigzags to the tanks on a well constructed path but beyond this point is the start of the aptly named ‘Water-tank Ridge’, and the going underfoot instantly gets a lot rougher and the forward progress much harder.

After a Heli-Hike trip was cancelled at the last minute my schedule was changed to afternoon work in the Old Mountaineer restaurant. Now I had a day that needed an adventure because I was in a rare lucky position of having a few hours of spare time when there was blue sky and very little wind. Normally in this weather I was up on the ice with spellbound heli hike customers.

I had always looked up at the ridge from the village, and as soon as I knew I didn’t have work for a couple of hours I was gone…

After jogging from my house in the village I scampered up the track to where the water comes from and then I was on the ridge behind the tanks for the first time. I followed an old track through the scrub and bush on the lower reaches of the ridge, and in places I had to bash my way through sections where the track disappeared into bushes.

At one point on my way up I looked up to see a lone Kea looking back down at me, and as I got closer he seemed to become quite aggravated and angry at my appearance. I’m guessing I was near a nest as he seemed fixed to one particular area, and after passing this point I was escorted further up the mountain until he felt like the threat had gone. Sorry Mr Kea I am just passing through!

I got onto loose scree above the Kea nest and as I climbed higher I was stopped by a large bluff of loose rock and scrub. I checked both sides and the right hand route looked a little better. Feeling the loose stones under my feet kept me on my toes and after some slightly dodgy scrambling I was on top of the bluff. It was here that I realised I had been on auto-pilot with my head down, so I finally took the time to take in an amazing view of the spectacular area.

From my elevated vantage point I was looking directly up the Hooker Valley at the Lake and Glacier. The angle was much different than what most people see so I enjoyed the random spot I had scrambled to. Along with the mountains most people drool over when visiting the area, the boss Aoraki / Mt Cook(3724m) was dominating all other mountains in the area. A truly grand vista that made the effort well worth it, and I still had time to climb higher.

After resting on the flat spot on the ridge I continued on and immediately the terrain steepened again. Due to my elevation I started encountering patches of snow and ice and I was feeling very unprepared.

I was now at a point where, to continue upwards, I needed to traverse across a small snow avalanche chute which was covered in small rocks that had been raining down from above. Because I was only in my running shoes and not prepared for snow I decided I had gone far enough. Besides I was way higher on the ridge then I had originally intended and the experience was outstanding!

I quickly made the decision to turn back and after a couple of pictures I began the part of journey where gravity is on your side.

Apart from the ‘interesting’ down climb through the tricky bluff, the descent was straight forward and in no time I had passed the noisy Kea, and was back down at the water tanks above the village. Having such an epic backyard was something I never got sick of and as I prepared myself for an afternoon of restaurant work, I was very happy after another successful mish in paradise. Ok, now it’s time to go back to work!

Aoraki/Mt Cook from Water Tank Ridge

New Zealand. What a place to explore!

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