Mt Isobel

Where: Hanmer Springs, New Zealand

What’s involved: This is a 10km round trip to the Mt Isobel summit which dominates the Hanmer Springs skyline at over 1300 meters. There are a couple of different ways to get to the summit:

  • Jacks Pass: This is the hardest, steepest but most direct ascent to the top. You will need a car to make the steep drive to the car park located at an altitude of 800 meters. From here the climb takes approx. 3.5 hours return.
  • Dog Stream Waterfall: From McIntyre Road you can complete the 2.5 hour climb 1100 meters upwards to the Dog Stream Waterfall. Just before the waterfall the trail forks off and you will see a sign advising that the next 200 meters are steep and to proceed with caution. Continue up this steep ascent and you will connect with the Clarence Valley Road trail to continue the steep climb up the exposed mountain ridge to the summit. This route takes approx. 6 hours return.
  • Jollies Road:  Similar to Jack’s Pass this is a more challenging climb and you will need a car to make drive up the gravel road. The upper section of this road is incredibly steep and is not recommended for campervans or vehicles that do not have 4WD. You can park at approx. 800 meters and begin the climb. From this point it takes approx. 4.5 hours return.
  • Clarence Valley Road: This is the easiest and most popular route to reach the summit. You can park on the road side and begin the gradual climb upwards through the dense forestry. At approx.. 1100 meters you will join up with the Dog Stream Waterfall trail. From here the gradient will become steeper as you continue along the mountain ridge to the summit.

The Hike: Many of the roads were closed around Hanmer Springs when we were there due to fire risk so only one route was actually open. We completed the climb from Clarence Valley Road.

From here the ascent is initially steep for about 15 minutes going through a field. Once you get into the alpine forest the ground levels out continuing upwards on a gradual gradient. It can be hard doing a climb like this through the forest because you have no concept of how far you are from the top.

Once through the forest you’ll join up with the Dog Stream Waterfall trail. From this point the hike gets quite steep and more challenging. I recommend having good hiking boots with a decent grip – more so for the descent rather than the climb. Once you reach the top of the ridge you’ll continue along by the edge for a further 30-40 minutes. Be warned it is really really cold and incredibly windy up here with absolutely no shelter so be sure to have a fleece and a windbreaker with you. This is a relatively gradual climb that doesn’t get too steep until the final 5-10 minutes to the very top.

The final few minutes to the summit are quite steep and the loose scree can the descent slow particularly when coupled with the high winds.

The Verdict: This is a great hike and one that is not too difficult. Overall it took me about 4 hours and 45 mins to complete the round trip. On a clear day the views are absolutely beautiful and you’ll be rewarded for all your hard work with panoramic views of the Hanmer Basin, Hanmer mountain ranges and Waiau Plain.

Grunt Factor: 5/10

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