Arthur's Pass in the South Island
Arthur's Pass in the South Island of New Zealand is a
small township, surrounded by dark green beech tree forest, 2,427 feet (740
meters) up in the Southern Alps. It is a popular base for exploring the
Arthur's Pass National Park and the road that runs through the town is one
of the few ways to cross the South Island.
Pick up a rental car in Christchurch and make the drive
to Arthurs Pass you will enjoy the craggy beauty of this huge mountain
range. The only word that even comes close to describing the scenery you
will see is majestic. New Zealand itself and its Alps more obviously are the
result of uplifted ancient seafloor. The range is made of sandstone and
mudstone both of which are rather soft rock. Because of this the mountains
are crumbling at about the same rate they are being pushed upwards by
tectonic action. This makes for a very unique landscape. Vast scree fields
are strewn about completely covers the sides of the massifs.
The additional forces of glacial sculpting formed massive
scree filled river valleys. Some of the mountains have such steep sides and
loose surfaces that no flora of any kind can take hold on them. This gives
the appearance of an enormous manmade quarry.
Once at Arthurs Pass you can hike Arthur's Pass National
Park. The Avalanche Mountain walk is a trailhead just behind the information
center in the small town. This is a 6 to 8 hour loop that climbs almost
straight up the side of the mountain then goes on to the peak. It then
returns by Scotts trail. You do not have to do the complete hike you can
walk as much or as little as you like. If you take the challenge you will
hike through native forests filled with Kia and Parakeets and encounter
magnificent waterfalls along the way.
The first hour will have you at times rock climbing,
2,000 feet above the valley floor. However, keep an eye on the weather and
be prepared to turn around and head back down at a moment's notice. As you
walk and climb you will hear the loud cracking sound made by distant rock
slides from the surrounding mountains. This is the processes of mountain
crumbling at work.