Peak 36: Mt Charon

After Mt Somers being yet another trip in the snow and the cloud, Mt Charon was a little different!! No clouds, scorching temperatures and blue skies (although the drive started out in thick fog!).

The Clarence River
The Clarence River

I had planned to run up a mountain on the north side of the Clarence River just north of Hanmer Springs. It was called Maukuratawhai -translated roughly as ‘follow the fern and forest’ (not sure why as there is no vegetation here at all).

After testing the depth and speed of the Clarence in several places – I deemed it too dangerous to attempt the crossing solo – kayaking would have been ace! This meant I had to go with a backup plan… (of course if I’d have had one, that would have been perfect!).

I racked my brain and thought back when I was back in Hanmer Springs in February for my 9th Peak, Dumblane – remembering that I had spotted another reachable peak around 8km away from the summit – but without a map I didn’t know the name or the route.

Anyway, I decided to give it a go as I’d driven over 150km to be here… might as well bag a peak.

So I traversed back to Jack’s Pass, got ready to run when I realised that the ‘sun cream’ I thought I had spotted in the car turned out to be bug spray. Not particularly useful on a day like today… still, I had clothing to protect most of me and there would be at least partial shade on route (or so I thought).

So for my first climb, back up Dumblane (1303m) so I could see where it was that I was heading in the distance. the route up Dumblane is a rough trail crossing a desert like landscape past rocky tors and steep scrubland. After about 40 minutes I’d climbed to the summit and caught a glimpse of the rest of the day’s running.

The view of Mt Charon from the top of Dumblane
The view of Mt Charon from the top of Dumblane

In the distance, Mt Charon looked quite close but there was absolutely no shade within view and physically it was quite the opposite. The route I saw (without a map) took me from my 1300m stance, down a steep scree slope to 1000m, back up to 1437, and crossed two other cols before the final climb to the trig and the 1540m summit. The last bit looked the trickiest, so was prepared for a bit of free climbing towards the end.

I calculated it would take me only another 20 minutes to get to the top of pt.1437, in reality this was more like an hour. The climb was tougher than I had expected across loose rock and scrub, with the occasional spaniard plant to slow you down and dig a few mm into your skin!

A little de-motivated, and with the sun beating down on me; I had second thoughts about continuing to the summit from here. I had been out for 1h45m and the summit didn’t look much closer. I decided to swallow some concrete pills and keep going – and I could see some snow patches in the distance where I could cool off if necessary.

Apparently wearing a Buff and mild sunstroke makes you crazy
Apparently wearing a Buff and mild sunstroke makes you crazy

Another 20 minutes further on, after slowing due to the sun’s heat, I reached the steep last climb. A little bit of a climb (maybe a 10-15m pitch) added a bit of excitement to the run and I pushed over the top to reach the summit in around 2h15m – way longer than I’d expected in the heat.

Peak 36 completed – Not many to go now!

Panorama from Mt Charon Summit
Panorama from Mt Charon Summit

I scoffed down some food, took on lots of water, put on the sunglasses, wrapped my buff around my head, rolled in the snow and started the long descents (and adjacent ascents) towards home.

Peak 36!
Peak 36!

Running well, I kicked on the downhills and pushed myself all the way back to the base of Dumblane where this last climb took it out of me (it was the reverse of a steep scree slope – but I managed to find a less rocky way up).

The end of that climb was great; knowing it was only 30 minutes back for more food and recovery shade. It was the final section, locating the car on the horizon. The total loop from Jack Pass took just under 3h45m and was a shock to the system after weeks in the snow.

Still, a great peak – and if you’re up near Hanmer, that ridgeline gets some stunning views of the Clarence and Waiau valleys.


3 Comments on “Peak 36: Mt Charon

  1. Hey Matthew- I found your website by chance looking for more information on the manakau surveyor spur route- what you are doing looks awesome! I am an American living in hawarden for the year, just north of chch, and I would love to join in on some of these climbs you are doing. I don’t know many other folks in New Zealand, so I have been doing some solo climbs, which is not necessarily the safest OR most fun. Any way you could let me know if you have any other group climbs or trips? I have most of the necessary gear- stove, fuel, axe, etc. If you are in any way interested in company, let me know! I’m attempting manakau this weekend, so reading your route in addition to a topo has been pretty useful. Hope you are well!


  2. Hi Matthew
    I know its been ages since you have run this track but I am up in Hanmer this weekend and am looking for a run with around 2500m of vert? I was wondering if you could give me some ideas as I am totally new to running the Hanmer area. I would also love to talk to you about sharing some of your adventures on as what you did is so epic!

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