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New Zealand:

Arthur's Pass

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.

Vast scree fields

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.

Arthurs Pass Video


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