Sometimes the weather is great, sometimes not so great, then there are the times that you look at the forecast and decide to just go anyway. Last weekend was one of these occasions.
The week began with the first day of spring, followed by a substantial snow fall that even came down to sea level. Mt Hutt recorded their best snow fall of the year, Methven schools were closed, and looking from home right up to the Canterbury Foothills, you could be forgiven for thinking it was the middle of summer.
My plans to head up to Mt Guy on Saturday were looking interesting, on Tuesday night we had the tramping club meeting and I had to get up and tell everyone what the plan was. I had a rough plan, that was potentially going to change on the day, but I was resolved to head out regardless.
On Friday, I hesitantly checked the Lake Clearwater webcam, hoping and praying that I would see a snowish free Mt Guy…………and that’s exactly what I did see. Excitement was building and I rushed home from work to pay my day pack and get my food sorted. After looking at the camera I decided that I could easily get away with my small day pack as I would be leaving my ice axe and crampons behind for this trip. I wasn’t the only one in the group to make this decision.
Saturday dawned clear, crisp and chilly. We hit the road leaving Ashburton just before 8am and picking up two additional people in Mt Somers before heading to Lake Clearwater Village. As we hit Hakatere Corner, it was obvious we were going to be in for an exceptional day and the lack of snow that I had seen on the webcam was in fact true, only a few pockets remained.
We arrived at the lake and parked in the designated area, only one vehicle was already there and we could see them heading off in the distance. It’s great to see people out exploring and enjoying the Ashburton Lakes, so close to town, very accessible and a lot of options for all ages, fitness levels and abilities.
We broke into two group, my group were planning on heading up Mt Guy, along the top and dropping down the back to join Te Araroa Trail and the track back to the village. The other group were going to do the Lake Clearwater Track.
We headed away from the vehicles along the 4WD track, during the summer months this track is open and you are able to drive further around the Lake, outside of the open months the gate here is locked.
At the top of the lake a footbridge crosses over the intake and through another locked gate. Not far on from this bridge there is a sign indicating the Mt Guy Track, along with a stile crossing an old fence. The sign here says that it is only 1 hour and 15 minutes to the top. This really surprised me as everything I had read on the Department of Conservation website said it was 3 hours from the car park to the top.
After leaving the good 4WD track, we headed away an up along a single track. The track here is marked by orange poles and they are very easy to see, you could clearly see the track following a spur and up through a rocky outcrop. As we gained elevation the wind started picking up, it was in the forecast so not unexpected at all. At around the 1000m mark we started getting into the remnant snow. It wasn’t at all deep, maybe a few inches, but it was nice and soft and made for easy going. Unfortunately as the wind came off the snow, the temperature dropped making for a rather chilling ascent.
We made it to the top in good time, about 1 hour and 20 minutes from the time we left the
vehicles. There is a large rock cairn that marks the top or Mt Guy, due to the wind and cold, and the fact that is was only 11.20am we decided to carry on along the tops to see if we could drop down into sheltered spot for lunch.
Mt Guy sits at 1319 metres, we headed along the broad open top, passing just below point 1274 and aiming for the small tarn and Te Araroa Trail. When we had dropped below the snow line and hit around the 1000 metre contour line we were sheltered enough to stop for lunch and a rest.
After our leisurely break we carried on, joining Te Araroa Trail, then turning off along the Eastern Link Track that would take us back to the Lake Clearwater Circuit Track and the vehicles. The walk down from the top is not marked, but in good clear conditions it is easy enough to see where the marked tracks are. There is nothing overly steep or technical on the descent, in fact other than being longer it is gentler than returning via the Mt Guy Track.
Once on Te Araroa Trail, then the Eastern Link Track the going is incredibly easy and straight forward. Both these sections of track are mixed use, meaning that trampers and mountain bikers can share these tracks at any time of the year.
We made good time back to the vehicles, in total we had around a 13 km walk, taking 4 hours and 45 minutes, with about a 660 metre height gain.