Peak 18: Mt Sinclair

The Rangitata River runs from the heartland of the Southern Alps straight to the Pacific Ocean just south of Ashburton on the East coast.

The View out over the Rangitata
The View out over the Rangitata

Mt Sinclair sits a long way back (part of the Sinclair Range) next to the Two Thumbs, north of Lake Tekapo and is a chain of peaks over 2000m in altitude. Mt Sinclair itself, named after Dr Sinclair, who, back in 1861 was Colonial Secretary to the New Zealand Government. He, along with his friend – Julius von Haast, principle geologist (and also famous for the Haast Pass being named after him) in the upper Rangitata, were surveying the river before his horse bolted and he reached an untimely demise. Still, his legacy lives on in the mountain range, and what a stunning range it is.

Anyway, back to the peak… this was an area I was visiting for the first time, I went along with my friend Dave to conquer the peak – it was my 18th and it was his 4th – Dave is trying to mountaineer his way to 12 peaks this year, and this was his one for April.

The Lake at 1600m - Mt Sinclair
The Lake at 1600m

The start of the journey was a looooong way from where we’d hoped to have started due to a nicely placed deer fence next to Mesopotamia Station. We negotiated the fence and headed into the valley towards the start of the incline (which was pretty – sorry, incredibly steep). This was after being watched by around 500 deer in the adjacent field who looked quite hungry… not as hungry as the stags in the next field that we successfully passed without issue. Onwards and upwards to the first section of climbing up the scree. This was tough and arduous… but the gradient eased off and we could see the cliff where we hoped that a picturesque lake sat.

The rumours were true, the lake was incredible and heaps of snow nestled behind the water, sheltered from the oncoming wind. Time for food. After a quick respite we carried on and hit the snowline – trudging through a boulder-field we hit a nice covering and the trudging turned into cutting steps and compacting the newly fallen snow – the first of the year so far.  Up to the second ‘false flat’ we hit the bottom of a last, yet nasty section of snow covered scree.

The Snowy Ascent - Mt Sinclair
The Snowy Ascent

This was horrendous, Dave yelled “What type of frozen hell is this”, at one point.  I had to agree.  Totally energy sapping – one step forward, three back and slippery too.  Over the crest was the summit, and what a view. The lake below, the Two thumb range in the distance and a vista down the Rangitata all the way towards Mt Hutt and Mt Somers.

The top was large and flat, totally different to the climb we’d just completed. But the wind, probably about 80-100km/h… pretty strong and took us a few moments to get to our feet after being blown about at the radio trig point. We took photos then decided to split… the way down was so much quicker and a lot more fun.

Descending by skidding down the scree was our best option and got some good GoPro footage too… Back to the lake in less than an hour meant that we’d be on the home stretch in no time… back down the last section of scree and into tussock hell – our feet in so much pain, throbbing from the constant pounding that tramping inflicts on your feet. Still we got to the flat within a couple of hours and headed back along the forest track at the bottom, just as the wind picked up in the valley.

The Summit! - Mt Sinclair
The Summit! – Peak 18

A round trip in 8 hours including the extra 10km we weren’t expecting to walk due to the deer fences – and awesome weather to boot. We drove off with an awesome feeling of accomplishment as we watch the dust bowl (aka. The Rangitata River braids) blow particles in the sunset.

Just the 3 hours drive home – a typical kiwi weekend day trip.


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