Hiking Ben Lomond
I've been living in Queenstown, New Zealand for 14 months now and I still haven't done some of the greatest hikes the South Island has to offer! I love being outdoors and I thoroughly enjoy walks, but the thought of getting up before my usual work alarm and sweating up a steep incline is definitely something I have to mentally and physically prepare for in order to enjoy it. And even then I use the word 'enjoy' lightly...
Ben Lomond is a large mountain located near Queenstown that elevates to 1,748 m, a challenging ascent that needs a full day allowance to complete, taking the average hiker 6-8 hours to complete from the base to the summit. However, the famous Otago mountain is acclaimed for its spectacular clear-day views of Lake Wakatipu, Moke Lake and all surrounding mountain ranges including Mt. Aspiring and The Remarkables.
QUICK FACTS ABOUT THE HIKE
DURATION: 3-4 hr to Ben Lomond Saddle, 6-8 hr to Ben Lomond Summit
HEIGHT: 1,748 metres
LOCATION: 45°00'24.06" south 168°36'54.76" east
ACCESS POINT: There are two points of access to this track, bottom (near Lomond Crescent) or top of the Skyline Access Road, or from the Tiki Trail starting at the top of Brecon Street.
DESCRIPTION OF HIKE: The track begins among Douglas fir on Skyline Access Road/Tiki Trail. At about 800m altitude, you enter alpine tussocks an shrubs, climbing to the 1326m Ben Lomond Saddle (Ben Lomond Station). The track gets steeper and rougher as it approaches Ben Lomond's 1,748m summit.
BEST TIME TO HIKE: Before sunrise in the Summer
NO DOGS ALLOWED
WHAT TO WEAR (January time)
Comfortable trainers or hiking boots
T-shirt or tank top
WHAT TO PACK
Lightweight waterproof jacket
Snacks and a light lunch
2x bottles of water
Hand towel (because you will SWEAT)
Torch - if heading up in the earlier hours
Camera - for the stunning 360 views at the summit!
We woke at 6am and reached our starting point on Lomond Crescent at 6.45am to begin our climb. The first 20 minutes of walking is all uphill on a rocky road before you reach the pine forest. The path then winds through the downhill mountain bike tracks and up into a clearing where it breaks out onto shrub and tussock. From here you can see your end goal; the glorious Ben Lomond summit.
The path continues gently uphill to the saddle which sits at 1300 metres. Here is where we chose to sit at the one bench and enjoy a well earned snack in the sunshine. The sun was beating down quite hard now after a cool hike through the pines had kept us relatively comfortable. We did some quick yoga stretches in preparation for the monstrous vertical climb we had ahead of us and began the hours hike up the summit.
It doesn't look like it will take you an hour when you're stood at the saddle, but as soon as we began the rocky incline it became clear why it takes the average walker that long to complete it. At some points we were on all fours clambering over boulders and the path just winded on for what felt like a lifetime. We were passed by by a bunch of sprightly hikers who were on their way back down the mountain who took one look at our tired, sweaty faces and said "don't worry guys - you're super close now!" - knowing that I could soon be the one looking that smug whilst skipping down the hill was definitely my motivation to keep going!
This was definitely the most challenging part; my thighs burnt, I was out of breath, my face was maroon and my hair was a sweaty birds nest on top of my head, but we made it to the summit in about 50 minutes. Our whole ascent to the very top had taken just under three hours from Lomond Crescent (including a couple of breaks), and we spent roughly 40 minutes at the summit eating our lunch, enjoying the views, taking photos and playing with our new pals; the cheeky Kea's!
Kea birds are the only alpine parrot in the world and are native to New Zealand, often they are spotted on the mountains, particularly on the South Island. Notorious for their curiosity and pick-pocketing, they are what I call the 'Artful Dodger's of the sky'. Don't leave your bag open or your lunch in their sight else you'll be waving goodbye to both! These endangered species certainly aren't shy, and will happily pose for your holiday snaps before spreading their emerald wings and taking off with your sandwich.
The views at the summit were just about as breath-taking as the strenuous hike up there. We were lucky to see a clear day materialise in front of our eyes, allowing us to look over Lake Wakatipu and all the surrounding areas I mentioned before. The weather can change quickly so I recommend definitely taking a warm layer to throw on when at the top.
On the way back down we noticed that our hands were tingling and they had swelled to the size of Shrek's! My ring was about to burst off! So the rest of the way we held our hands in the air to let the blood drain from the area.
Was it worth it? Yes. Would I do it again? Absolutely not. NEXT UP: Roy's Peak in Wanaka!