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Mount Owen – Bell’s Hill – Culliford Hill

dscf7622.jpgMount Owen! Limestone massif, massive. A short tramp from out back of Tapawera. One of my favorite places!

As well as Mt Owen itself, there are other peaks to climb, for fantastic 360 degree views across Kahurangi and Tasman Bay. Mt Bell, Billie’s Knob, Replica Hill, and Culliford Hill all have quirky appeal. Mt Owen is the place to come in fine weather, to relax and spend days climbing and clambering through a sharp limestone maze. Don’t come up in the rain and mist!

From Courthouse Flat it is a sharp climb to the bush line, with super views north over the Arthur Range, and toward Mt Patriarch. The head of Blue Creek is alive with birds, making for a pleasant camp at the old Prospector’s hut site.

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There are heaps of camp sites on the tops, and away from the crowded hut. We set up the fly below Mt Bell, and climbed the steep scree. I had fun rolling rocks down the other side!

The Mt Owen track winds through a neat limestone maze of crevasses and holes, arches and fluted columns. Weird and wonderful shapes make this a great place to explore.

dscf7617.jpgWe set off to return to Courthouse flat via Culliford Hill. The traverse was straightforward until just north of the summit, with a tricky sidle below a jagged knife edge ridge. Huge cliffs fall away to the west.

Descent from Culliford Hill is difficult, through steep slopes covered in sharp Spaniard, and treacherous jagged rock. From the top it is a 1500m drop back to Courthouse flat, made harder by my getting us lost!

dscf7655.jpgAt last we made the bushline, Jaime’s pants torn to shreds from sliding down the sharp rock. My map showed a track leading straight down the ridge. We followed the old markers, now suffering through lack of water.

Losing and finding the track, it turned into a pink tape trail, and veered off the ridge to the east, and steeply down.

dscf7748.jpgRope and ladder helped us through the steepest sections, but the terrible trail seemed endless until we at last popped onto the track at the Blue Creek resurgence. Bad route!

Staggering back to the carpark at dusk, a quick look at the signboard showed the track marked on my map no longer exists. The correct way to Culliford Hill lies via Nuggety Creek. Don’t take the pink tape trail!

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