After yet another break with poor weather in the mountains I headed up north for some brighter skies. Marlborough was the ideal location, with the forecast being super blue skies and very much a lack of wind below 3000m – Amazing!
The previous week I’d decided to race the Crater Rim Trail Run in Christchurch, a small event put on by Port Hills Athletics Club – straight up Mt Vernon Farm Track, to the kiwi and back (for the short) – unfortunately I’d blistered my heel on the downhill (but managed 2nd place) so was tentative for the planned ‘double peak’ I had lined up for Marlborough… but drove up nevertheless.
Surrounded by vinyards, Blenheim and Renwick are nestled between the Wither Hills and Richmond Forest Park – this was to be or basecamp for the weekend for travels and adventure. The Richmond Forest Park is HUGE and there is a deep lack of people in it – which means it’s ideal for exploring new peaks. There are 13 peaks in a line on the inland section of the Forest park north of the Wairau River – which means there are plenty of tracks, trails and rivers to explore.
This time I decided to turn my efforts to the eastern set of mountains including this peak 37; Mt Royal (1365m) and Peak 38, Mt Fishtail (1641m).
The Mt Royal route starts from the Quartz Creek/Bartletts Creek bridge and rises from 120m above sea level to spot height 1198m, before a ridgeline run along towards the peak.
The river start is beautiful – gravel 4×4 tracks lead the way (although I’m not sure how many trucks use the route) through clear blue river crossings along bush covered slopes towards the inevitable climb. Within the first 4km I think the climb is around 50m, which means there’s a lot left for the final 5km before the summit. However, me and Caralyn didn’t care as the cool water in the hot heat was a blessing.
After meeting a trail junction, we started the steep ascent – not too steep to start but very slippy with moss covered clay style mud on the first few inclines; making it tough work – one step forwards, two back…
We (me and Caralyn) met an older couple on their way up – they were very cheery and wished us luck – having climbed to the summit themselves before.
After that, there were around 1 million tree roots to negotiate on the steeper section of climb. This continued for a good half hour or so with the indistinct trail weaving and turning through the forest. Parts of the climb before 1198m were very exposed for a forest route – with thin ridges and drop-offs on either side. Some parts were even a bit more like climbing and scrambling than running over the rocky outcrops. By this time me and Caralyn had split, I went ahead to see the rest of the route – but we both made it up.
After hitting the high point, the route traversed right along the ridge – flat for a while before the steep climb to the summit. This was now above the bushline and headed up some large scree to the cairn at the top along with awesome views! Peak 37!
A little wait at the summit for Caralyn, I descended to meet her on the ridgeline traverse before turning back to head past the bushline for the views. Up in just over 2hrs was pretty good for the heat and the amount of climb I reckon… and the descent was where the fun began.
Took the descent gently to save the legs and was looking forward to the steeper sections – the more technical is better in my eyes as it doesn’t hurt your legs as much! Hitting 1198m was a blessing – no more UPHILL. Down after that seemed long but achievable… in fact it took nearly as long to descend as it did to head up the hill – madness!
Hitting the river, the cool water felt great as I could feel the blisters coming back again after so much sweating, friction on the dwnhill and heat… gah!
Still, made it back to the car in good time and felt good – ready for another peak!