Altitude: 834m to 1766m. Gain: 1179m. Loss: 1105m . Gradient: 7 deg (Moderate)
Skills: Occasional scrambles (3/7)
A moderate to hard ridgeline route along a sometimes narrow and exposed ridgeline. Lots of boulder-hopping and scrambling early on. The ridge later broadens out towards the plateau, but becomes featureless, and careful map/compass word would be required in bad visibility.
The Red Hill Range is unlike anything else I’ve seen in NZ. A 16km-long collection of large boulders heaped haphazardly into a ridge – with no bedrock in sight. An almost entirely barren landscape of intensely red rock. And the most abrasive rock I’ve ever met, at that. Take too a look at your boots before you go – as they’ll never look the same again, the rocks will shred them.
From Top Wairoa Hut, follow the track west towards Mt Ellis, until you cross the 1st creek shown on the map. By this stage, the scrub should have abated, and you can leave the track and climb to the ridgeline. Circling around the heads of the two creeks beyond, it’s a short, climb over the first large red bounders to the ridgeline NW of Red Hill. Follow the ridge SE to Red Hill summit, where the remains of a trig-point can be found amongst the boulders. At 1791m this is the highest point in the trip.
The two unnamed and unnumbered peaks between Red Hill and pt1770 are very tricky to cross, and though many parties report successful but nerve-wracking crossings along the ridgeline, an easier option is to descend into the basin to the west of the ridgeline. From there it’s an easy climb back to the ridge at pt1770. South of pt1770, things get gradually tamer – the ridge broadens out, the boulders get smaller and the gaps between them less daunting. Occasional flowers can be spotted, though it’s still a barren place. By the time you reach Chrome, patches of tussock start to appear, and soon you’ll be wishing you were back boulder-hopping as you stumble over tussock tops for the last couple of km down to The Plateau. Head directly for the trig-point visible across the tarn-scattered plateau, (‘A4BF’ pt1131 on the map) and keep heading the same direction beyond it to find yourself directly above the Red Hills Hut.