Mt Owen Massif
February 3-6, 2007  
  • The massif, showing the principal peaks climbed over our 4-day visit.
  • Large <em>Hebe topiaria</em> in 'Ghost Valley' approaching Granity Pass Hut.
  • A dense mix of hebe, flax, tussock and other herbs and shrubs beneath the 'Railway Embankment' morraine en route to our campsite.
  • We camped on a lovely grassy terrace at 1,400m, with dramatic peaks on all sides. Culliford Hill in the background of this view.
  • Peter and Margot 'at home'.
  • Sculpted karst limestone on the approach to Mt Owen.
  • This was the 1999 filming location for the 'Gates of Moria' scenes for <em>The Fellowship of the Ring</em>, a fact which seems to explain a marked increase in tramping to the rather remote location.
  • A karst chasm.
  • The summit, perhaps... It's Kahurangi National Park's highest point, but rather flat, and mist obscured views when we showed up.
  • Descent from the summit, where we met dozens more summiteers coming up. Thank you, LOTR!
  • A rest stop near the top of neighbouring Replica Hill, with a good view of Mt. Bell.
  • Mt Owen (L) and Replica (R), 1,875m and 1,822m.
  • Flowering olearia ('tree daisy').
  • Flowering shrub [identification pending]
  • Flowering shrub [identification pending]
  • Flowering goundcover shrub [identification pending].
  • Ranunculus, or mountain buttercup.
  • A small species of spaniard (flowering speargrass).
  • Astellia.
  • A lone <em>Dracophillum traversii</em> in the upper Ghost Valley.
  • Flowering shrub [identification pending].
  • Our party begins the ascent of unnamed peak 1559 from lower Granity Pass, en route to Mt Bell.
  • An unusual fungus high on the mountain [identification pending].
  • [Identification pending]
  • Eyebright? [Identification pending].
  • A tiny, pale NZ 'native violet', <em>Viola hederacea</em>.
  • A remarkable cluster of <em>Pterostylis tanypoda</em> orchids we noticed in a gully just below the Mt Bell scree. Unusual for this area, the photo was added to the New Zealand Native Orchids website.
  • A pair of the little greenhoods.
  • [Identification pending]
  • <em>Celmesia lyallii</em>.
  • [Identification pending]
  • On the summit of Mt Bell, 1,857m. (And,  yes, another view of Owen.)
  • Owen and Replica from Bell.
  • Leaving camp on a brilliant morning, under the gaze of Owen and Replica.
  • Our target, Culliford Hill,  a massive 1,756m. Some hill!
  • Up the ridge to Culliford.
  • A lordly 'billy goat'.
  • View northwest to Mt Patriarch.
  • Bell, Owen and Replica from Culliford.
  • On the summit of Culliford Hill.
  • Walking across Reverse Basin on our way back to Granity Pass and out. (Could that be Mt Owen?)
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Mt Owen Massif

massif – “a compact portion of a mountain range, containing one or more summits”

Mt Owen, at 1,875 m., is the highest point in Kahurangi National Park. However, it looks more like a large, flat-topped glob of unshapely limestone than a bona fide “peak,” and it is surrounded by several allies of similar elevation. It is the remarkable geology, scenery and plant life of the area as a whole, more than the summit challenge, which has traditionally attracted trampers to the “Owen Plateau,” as it is commonly called, or “massif,” which has an appropriately dramatic edge. Ideally, after a very hard day’s tramping to get to the area, one should spend several days enjoying it. Thus, Nelson Tramping Club trip organizer Grahame Harris laid out a four-day plan for the Waitangi Day holiday weekend as follows:

Waitangi Day spend time exploring with day packs after a stiff climb up to the plateau. Day 1: From Courthouse Flat follow the track up past Granity Pass Hut and camp near tarns below Mt Owen. This is the hard day with 1200m climb over 9.5km and full packs. Day 2. Climb 320 m through “Lord of the Rings” terrain to top of Mt Owen (1875m), descend through a dip and climb 200m to Replica Hill (1822m). Down to campsite – total distance 4km. Day 3: Climb 300m to top of Mt Bell (1857m), descend into Granity Pass, climb 400m up Billies Knob (1648m) and descend to the Staircase to join the track back to camp – total 10km. Day 4: Climb 200m to Cullifords Hill (1756m), and then it is all downhill via Nuggety Creek, reaching the cars after 13km. If all this happens it will be a dream trip, but at least parts of it should come true.

With perfect weather, the actual adventure, for six of us, came close to matching this “dream” itinerary, and is delightfully chronicled by Margot Syms in the official club report.