Hiking the Avalanche Peak Route – Arthur’s Pass

Avalanche Peak is an expert rated hike in Arthurs Pass. The hike is very challenging and steep in some sections. On a clear day you will be rewarded with incredible views of the surrounding mountain ranges and peaks. 

The hike passes through avalanche terrain and as its an alpine hike, it is prone to quick weather changes. 

For more things to do in Arthurs Pass, you can visit my blog post here.

Where is it?

The Avalanche Peak Route is in Arthurs Pass, which is about a 2-hr drive from Christchurch. The trail has two starting points, the Avalanche Peak route and the Scott’s Track. Connecting both creates a loop.

The Avalanche Peak route starts behind the Avalanche Creek shelter, whereas Scott’s track starts from the Devils Punchbowl car park. It is recommended to hike up the Avalanche Creek route and down via Scott’s Track. This is because the Avalanche Peak route is extremely steep and would be very difficult to descend.

Where to stay?

If you are travelling around in a campervan like myself, I recommend staying at the Avalanche creek shelter. This DOC campsite is very basic, but it has bathrooms, drinking water and a shelter to cook. There are no designated camping spots, so simply find a spot that suits you and park up. This will cost you $10NZDpp/pn. It is right next to a trainline; however these trains do not run at night. 

If you are looking for budget accommodation, I recommend the Mountain House YHA. A bed in an 8 person dorm will cost you $32NZD a night, where as a private room, $99NZD per night. 

For something a bit more up market, there is the Arthurs Pass Motel and Lodge. There are a few other accommodations around the Arthurs Pass area, all three of these options are in the village, which makes it easy to access the walking trails. 

The Hike

This is an expert rated hike, and for good reason. The hike up Avalanche Peak Route is extremely steep and will be very slippery in wet conditions. The hike up requires rock scrambling and sections where you need 3 points of contact. This hike should not be taken on by the inexperienced. 

This is an alpine hike, so you need to be prepared for changes in weather conditions and be properly equipped. Completing this hike in summer will be completely different to hiking in winter. 

The trail leads you up a rocky, uneven trail. You pass some waterfalls while ascending. The steep section of this hike will take you roughly 2-3 hrs, depending on your fitness levels. Once you reach the top of the tree line, you will begin walking on the ridge. 

Parts of this section have steep drop offs and uneven footing. You will have no protection from the elements in this part of the hike, and for about the next 3 hrs – so keep that in mind and dress accordingly.  

You continue following the ridge, which is marked by posts till you reach a viewpoint which gives you impressive views of your surroundings. From here you start ascending again. Once you reach the peak, you will have the option to walk a little further out onto the ridge. It can be windy and slippery. 

After the peak you continue walking down the ridge, until you are met by the tree line, where you will begin your descent. 

My Experience

To be fair, I should of completed this hike the day prior to I did, when the weather was much better. I started this walk early in the morning, in very wet conditions. Knowing the conditions were going to worsen over the day, so I wanted to complete this hike as soon as possible. I do not recommend you do this if the forecast calls for bad weather. It is and was extremely dangerous. 

I started the hike up Avalanche Peak Route, which was very slippery, as it had been raining. It was only a light drizzle and by this time, I was used to this in New Zealand. The steep section of this hike took me about 1.5hr to complete. Once I was out of the tree line, the weather took a turn. 

It got windy and wet. I’m an experienced hiker and knew that this was not that bad – could be worse, so I continued on. There were a few clearings during the walk, where I got to see the mountain ranges surrounding the hike. 

I also got to see snow for the very first time in my life! So, despite the fact I was drenched and cold, I was stoked about this moment! 

I continued up the ridge, with the weather worsening with each step. Once reaching the viewpoint the weather had picked up and I knew my safety was now the main priority. 

From here I did not take any photos or videos, I simply did everything I could to get off that ridge line and into the protection of the tree line. This section was a bit of a blur, as I had one thought in my mind and that was get out of the elements. I did not get any views from the summit, nor on the way down. When I tell you I ran down that ridge, I ran. 

Once in the tree line, I descended as quickly as possible and go to my car to get warm and dry. 

If you are thinking, if you’re and experienced hiker, why did you go up? The weather came in quicker than expected while I was on the mountain, and I had a feeling this was going to happen, but blind optimism got in the way again. I was properly equipped with all the safety precautions. If I didn’t think it was safe to continue, I would have turned around. 

I completed this hike in 5.5hrs, but I would give yourself 6-7hrs to do it at a normal pace. Only complete this hike if you are experienced or go with someone who has experience. And do not complete this hike in bad weather conditions! 

I will be back to complete this hike in better weather conditions one day, along with a few others in New Zealand. 

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Comments (1)

  • 5 Incredible things to do in Arthur's Pass – TREKwithBECK

    17th February 2023 at 5:03 pm

    […] I didn’t get to experience those incredible views, as the weather took a turn for me on my ascent. However, I still recommend this hike, as I know the views would be incredible on a clear day. You can read my experience walking the track here.  […]

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