Peak 45: Mt John

Road Trip! Packing the car is always tedious, especially on a hot afternoon before spending a 5 hour car journey in a warm metal box… but hey, what a drive! I actually love the drive to Wanaka, it’s one of those magical trips right out of Lord of the Rings.

Firstly, the long (and VERY STRAIGHT) across the huge Canterbury Plains – cross over the foothills of Geraldine (next to Mt Peel) into Fairlie and true Mackenzie Country. Over the top from Burkes Pass towards the beautiful Lake Tekapo – where Mt John (Peak 45, 1031m) lies.

Mt John from the Church of the Good Shepherd
Mt John from the Church of the Good Shepherd

On top of Mt John sits New Zealand’s premier astronomical observatory as Tekapo has some of the clearest nights in the world with incredible skies full of stars and planets. Lake Tekapo is a beautiful aquamarine coloured lake, glacially fed from the Godley and Macauley Rivers to the north and is surrounded by purple and pink lupins, flowering in the springtime.

Tekapo Mount John Walkway
Tekapo Mount John Walkway

Anyway, I digress away from the peak itself. The Tekapo Mount John Walkway starts out along the shoreline of Lake Tekapo from the Alpine Springs and undulates northwards towards the snowy peaks of the Sibbald Range. After a while there is a steep climb onto the ridgeline, straight up from the lake. Here you get a real view of your surrounding – a moonlike landscape surrounded by white capped mountains to the west.

From there, the going is steadily upwards, all the way up the lee slope towards the observatory and the summit itself. The grassy trails meander through boulders all the way up the slope – with 2 steep sections until you reach ‘civilisation’ at the summit.

The final pathway is dusty and on this occasion, it was totally windy – with dust flying into my eyes (felt like around 60-80km/hr) at the summit which wasn’t that great, and pretty hard to stand up too – hence the great pose for the summit photo…

The summit (and wind) on the top of Peak 45
The summit (and wind) on the top of Peak 45

Peak 45 sorted. I quickly got off the top and descended down the scarp slope through the forest towards the Alpine Springs. My reward was to try out NZ’s largest inflatable water slide… Woohoo! But as I got closer to the springs, I noticed that it was deflating… we were too late – the wind was too strong for them to keep it up (and due to the incoming storm, they had decided to call it a day).

Back in the car and the long drive through the storm to Wanaka – where Peak 46 was on the cards…


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