Most climbing on the St Arnaud Range is accessed from the upper Wairau valley, but the range can also be reached from Lake Rotoiti and the Travers River in Nelson Lakes National Park.
Access: Most peaks are reached from tributaries of the Wairau beyond a locked gate at Six Mile Creek. From St Arnaud head towards Blenheim on SH63 for 9km, then turn onto the skifield road. After about 3.5km the road is joined on the left by that from the homestead, 1.5km back down-valley. Continue from the homestead turn-off for 13km to the locked gate. Beyond here you pass the Hamilton River (6.5km from the gate) and Connors Creek (12km). To get into the Rainbow Valley, turn right onto a 4WD track just before the road swings left to cross the Wairau River, 15km from the locked gate. Park near the pylons. The farm manager no longer permits 4WD vehicles up the riverbed. Rough but okay for mountain bikes. Access to the western side of the St Arnaud Range is from the shores of Lake Rotoiti or from the Travers Valley. From St Arnaud, a track leads to the range via Parachute Rocks (1470m) in about 2½ hours. A range traverse south, towards Rainbow Skifield and Mt McRae is a good day trip, particularly for ski touring. Access down to Lake Rotoiti is easy in several places. Easy ridge travel and good ski touring along the range from Pk 1880m (above St Ronans Well) almost to the Camel.
The skifield road is open for foot access year-round but to vehicles only when the skifield is open. From here there are good day trips by foot or skis. Note that if you walk out of the area controlled by the skifield, you are required to sign an intentions book. The operators are responsible for safety, and don’t want to search needlessly for a walker or climber or the occupants of a vehicle that hasn’t left at the end of the day.
Access: The skifield road is open for foot access year-round but to vehicles only when the skifield is open. From here there are good day trips by foot or skis. Note that if you walk out of the area controlled by the skifield, you are required to sign an intentions book. The operators are responsible for safety, and don’t want to search needlessly for a walker or climber or the occupants of a vehicle that hasn’t left at the end of the day.
Fifteen Mile Spur
Access: Hamilton River (http://climbnz.org.nz/nz/si/nelson-lakes/st-arnaud-range/hamilton-river) Connors Creek (http://climbnz.org.nz/nz/si/nelson-lakes/st-arnaud-range/connors-creek) Begley Creek (http://climbnz.org.nz/nz/si/nelson-lakes/st-arnaud-range/paske-creek-upper-rainbow-river-and-begley-creek)
An attractive peak visible from near the gorge in the Rainbow. Slightly East of St Arnaud Ra.
Access: Rainbow River (http://climbnz.org.nz/nz/si/nelson-lakes/st-arnaud-range/rainbow-river) Paske Creek (http://climbnz.org.nz/nz/si/nelson-lakes/st-arnaud-range/paske-creek-upper-rainbow-river-and-begley-creek)
St Arnaud to Hanmer Road Built in the 1950s to service the hydroelectric power pylons marching northwards, this follows a historic droving route up the Wairau Valley and into Canterbury. The historic cob-built Tophouse accommodation house (near St Arnaud) is still in use, while the old Rainbow Homestead (also cob construction) is used during summer when the road is open to the public. It is a public road as far as the Rainbow Skifield turnoff.
Access: This is a public road as far as the Rainbow Skifield turnoff. Just beyond here, there is a gate at Six Mile Creek. During summer, this is usually open, and a $25 per vehicle road toll collected at the old Rainbow Homestead, 10.5km further. The DOC Visitor Centre at St Arnaud can advise on the road opening times. Although 4WD is seldom needed, the road can get washed out in several places, making it difficult for lower suspension or 2WD cars. However, it's easy for mountain bikes. Locked gate information The road is a toll road managed by Rainbow Station (Star Holdings Ltd) and is open from 26 December to 5 pm on Easter Monday. There is a $25 toll per 4WD vehicle, $15 per motorbike, $2 per mountain or push bike, $2 per tramper. Outside the open period contact Star Holdings Ltd to arrange access through the station to 4WD, tramp, hunt, fish or mountain bike. The DoC website also has information.
The Raglan Range runs between the Branch River and the Wairau Valley.
Access: Lees Creek At about 6km beyond the locked gate at Six Mile Creek there is a footbridge over the Wairau River, and a track to Lees Creek Hut (4 bunks, standard).
The Peak is slightly east of the main Raglan Ra. Scott Stream is the easiest access.
Access: Scott Stream is the easiest access. From Greigs Hut cross the Branch, following a track into the stream. Good campsites in a basin at 1200m. In winter, ice forms in runnels and on buttresses above the campsite.
Attribution: Ben Winnubst. photo Mark Holmes
Access: From the power pylons, follow farm tracks up the Rainbow River; this is the main access route to excellent climbing in the headwaters. Two hours of easy riverbed travel brings you to a gorge. Rainbow Hut (4 bunks) on the south bank is now controlled by Rainbow Station. Climb around the gorge on a stock track on the true left and descend to Rainbow Junction flats.
St Arnaud Range
Attribution: Photo & text by Ben Winnubst
St Arnaud to Hanmer Road
Access: Easy to get to even without a key or 4WD, being only 30min on the MTB from the skifield car park. A marked track follows the true right bank of the Hamilton River. Where it peters out continue up the bouldery riverbed to campsites in the upper basin near the bush edge.
St Arnaud Ra
Attribution: Ben Winnubst
St Arnaud Ra
Attribution: Ben Winnubst
Drains into Upper Wairau Valley.
Access: From the Rainbow Junction flats just above the gorge, stock tracks up terraces on the true left of Paske Creek lead to Paske Hut (6 bunks, standard). About 1½ hours travel up the Rainbow there is a second fork; the north branch gives access to a delightful tussock basin under Kehu Peak, and the south branch leads to Mts Paske and McKay, and a good saddle to the large tarn source of the East Sabine. Begley Creek From the Rainbow Junction flats, a track leads to Begley Hut (8 bunks, standard) and saddles with Connors Creek and the Hamilton River.
Named for Frederick Weld, who in March 1855, with Alphonse Clifford, climbed onto a high point on Turk Ridge and spotted Tarndale, which led to the upper Clarence and opened up the important droving route to Canterbury.
Attribution: Ben Winnubst
All routes reached from the Begley and Rainbow valleys are steep, and probably best done as spring snow or ice climbs. This magnificent peak has some of the best climbing in the park, with nice rock on the normal summer route, and more difficult winter and spring climbs. It is the only major Travers Valley peak visible from Lake Rotoiti, and is named after Thomas Brunner’s Maori guide Kehu (or Ekehu) without whom his epic 18 month journey from Nelson to Paringa would have been impossible.
Attribution: Photo & Text by Ben Winnubst