The walk takes you through rolling tussock grasslands, beech forest and across a sub alpine pass with majestic views of the glaciated Arrowsmith Mountains.
Lake Heron Station to the Highland Home
Lake Heron Station is 2 hours drive from Christchurch and 50kms inland from the Canterbury foothills town of Mt Somers. On arrival, you will enjoy a high country morning tea, whilst getting to know your guide. There is plenty of time for a trip briefing and last minute packing before setting off on the 4-5 hour walk to “The Highland Home”.
The journey starts with an easy crossing of the lower Cameron River. We then leave the river for a short climb onto a broad tussock covered ridge. The route traverses several gentle basins to a lunch venue by a beautiful alpine tarn. After lunch, as we continue our route above the Cameron River, the Arrowsmith Mountains reveal themselves. These views beckon us on for the rest of the day. The route rejoins the Cameron River after a downhill section and follows river terraces upstream to the Highland Home – journey’s end for the day.
The Highland Home to Rocky Gorge Hut
Our journey on the second day commences with a 2 hour climb up a broad spur. This spur leads to a high point of 1574m. Initially the going is steep but after ½ hour eases off to a steady gradient. There is plenty of time to take in the grandeur of the Arrowsmith Mountains – time also to reflect on the many generations of men and faithful dogs that have lived and worked, mustering sheep through this landscape.
From our high point, the afternoon route down Rocky Gorge lies below. The descent route passes through sub-alpine basins, before entering beech-clad Rocky Gorge. Several hours later we emerge into Lake Stream valley. A short walk through open grassland brings us to Rocky Gorge hut – our haven for the night.
Rocky Gorge to “the Downs”
Day 3 provides many route alternatives depending on group energy levels. The alternatives can vary from a gentle 2 hour stroll to the Downs Hut, to a more energetic circuit to view the upper Rakaia River.
The following route description is for one of the longer alternatives.
From Rocky Gorge hut, loads can be lightened to a small day pack. On leaving the hut, the route follows through tussock-covered river terraces and patches of beech forest above Lake Stream. Here you can observe the result of nature’s broad scale shaping of the landforms – uplift, glaciation, flooding and constant weathering have created an open valley surrounded by rounded hills. After 2 hours, the route climbs gradually to a 1200m saddle.
From the saddle the view west to the glaciated peaks of the Southern Alps, reveals itself – a dramatic panorama of the hidden world of the Upper Rakaia valley. The large views stay with us, on the descent from the saddle to aptly named “Quagmire Tarn.” Our final journey skirts the tarn to descend to “the Downs” hut, one of the station’s oldest outposts. At “the Downs” we are met by a 4WD vehicle, which transports us on a 15km farm track back to Lake Heron homestead.
After a hot shower, we get together for celebratory drinks and a farm style meal.
The adventure ends with a full farmhouse breakfast. Guests wishing to view the lake birdlife, may linger and enjoy a rowboat trip on Lake Heron.