Roys Peak – Mt Alpha
3rd March 2020
In February and March of this year, we spent 38 days adventuring through the South Island. Twenty-four of those days we spent wholly or partially in the conservation estate. Our adventure was anchored by participation in two club multi-day trips, and included a variety of day trips and some short rambles.
This was one of those day trips. We were fortunate to have use of friends' home in Wanaka as a base. Dominating the town's local horizon is Roys Peak, our day's objective. The Tititea / Mount Aspiring National Park Visitor Centre was helpful in a general sense; the DoC on-line information page for the track to the peak is informative and comprehensive.
We arrived at the car park before nine o'clock, to be confronted with the task of finding a space to leave the car. It was a warm early March blue-dome day. Were we unaware of a significant seasonal event?
During the course of our upward journey we were made aware of the reason for the early morning parking congestion. The first clue was the steady stream of predominantly young people coming down the track, attired in puffer jackets, beanies and scarves, and speaking a 'United Nations' of languages. A young English-speaking woman informed us that watching the sun rise from Roys Peak was a travellers’ must-do when in Wanaka. (There are You Tube videos that document various personal experiences).
The Roys Peak track is basically a graded farm track that switchbacks its way up to the peak. The initial portion of the track is over private land. About one-quarter of the way up is the grave site of former Wanaka identity Arthur Scaife. The grave is situated on a small level terrace that is a go-to launch site for hang gliders. The track is unrelenting in its gradient as it zig zags its way to the site of a panoramic vista, where there is a toilet. The peak (1,578 m) is a further thirty minutes and is dominated by a communications tower.
On this magic summer's day the track was not only busy with down-bound sunrise seekers, but was just as busy with upward peak seekers. We spent just minutes on the peak, with more than a dozen exuberant people getting 'the shot' with their devices. We moved on. All of a sudden we were on our own, traversing the Skyline Route to Mt Alpha (1,630 m), about three kilometres south.
The vista on that calm, blue-dome day from the peak was awesome; the northern horizon dominated by Mt Aspiring / Tititea. To the northeast were the northern reaches of Lake Wanaka. To the southeast, beyond the township, was the broad Clutha River valley and the Pisa Range, and to the west was the dry territory of the Harris Mountains.
The Roys Peak track and the Skyline Track are part of a longer contiguous ridge track that descends to the Cardrona Valley road, and would make an energetic day trip. As we lunched just below Mt Alpha, a ridge runner passed us – the third we had seen that morning. The track is obviously a training route for numerous Wanaka-based athletes.
Our post-lunch return was by the way we had come, passing a steady stream of peak seekers. We paused at the Scaife grave site to watch a hang glider prepare and launch in the soft breeze. The car park was still close to maximum capacity upon our return, a little over six hours after we set out.
It was an energetic, adventurous day, all within sight of Wanaka township. There is no shade at any point on this trip, nor any potable water. The track up is more than 1,200 m vertical on the east face of Roys Peak, so hydration and appropriate clothing are essential considerations for whatever time of the year the trip is undertaken.
- Party members
- Tricia French & Bill Allcock