Hiking Ben Lomond in Queenstown – we couldn’t summit!!
Ben Lomond sits at an altitude of 1,748m in the heart of Queenstown and it was covered in snow and ice when we hiked it. The wind picked up immensely creating snowstorms and we had to bail metres away from the summit!!
How to get there:
The track starts on Brecon Street in Queenstown. You can walk up the Tiki Trail to the top of the Luge and then head towards the Ben Lomond track or catch the Gondola up. It really depends what time you start the hike as to whether the gondola is operating.
I believe there is free parking at the bottom of the track on Brecon Street, but only for 4 hours. The hike to the saddle is 4-5 hours and the summit is 6-7 hours return.
From the top of the Gondola, the trail is 11km and from Queenstown, the trail is 14km (walking Tiki Trail).
Hiking Ben Lomond:
We stayed overnight in our campervan at the campground just below the Queenstown Gondola which was super handy for this hike. At 4.30am we set off to hike Ben Lomond in 0 degree weather. We had many layers of clothes on, gloves and hats. It was freezing!
Given it was 4.30am, we had to walk up the Tiki Trail, which was steep and hard to climb. Our legs were tired from the hikes we did just days before. It took us 45 minutes to reach the Luge.
From here we had to find our way to the start of the Ben Lomond track. You need to walk up the hill past the luge and around to the forest to find the signs for the track.
The first part of the Ben Lomond track is walking through forest and is relatively easy, before it descends and heads into alpine tussocks and shrubs at about 800m altitude. Here you will see your first views of Ben Lomond towering above. There are lots of wooden steps to climb and be aware, they were absolutely covered in ice in mid-September and very slippery!
The trail winds around and you will soon reach the top of the ridgeline where views open up of Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables. Eventually you will reach the Ben Lomond saddle at 1,326m. It was covered in snow and freezing in September. However, we were rewarded with the most epic sunrise. The colours in the sky were amazing and the photos do not do it justice. The hike to the saddle in the freezing cold was worth it, just for these images!
From the saddle, it is a steep and rough terrain to the 1,748m summit. The track is marked and we could see the markers to start but very quickly the track disappeared and we found ourselves in knee deep snow! It was hard going climbing through it.
We hiked halfway from the saddle to the summit when the wind picked up immensely and it created snowstorms that swarmed around us. The wind was suddenly so strong, it was hard to stay upright. Given the track was completely hidden, the snow was knee deep and the wind was ferocious, we made the decision to bail. It was not worth the high risk of avalanche or needing to be rescued, let alone falling to our death.
We turned around and made the journey back to our campervan. We were a bit bummed out given we have never not summited on a hike before, but we knew our safety was paramount. The track and wooden steps on the way down were even more slippery then on the way up and in the daylight we could see icicles hanging on the sides of the track.
We got back to the Gondola and had to hike down the Tiki Trail, given it was still to early for the Gondola to be running. We arrived back at the Campervan at 9.30am…. ready to start the day!
Ben Lomond would be a great hike in the summer. A tough climb suitable to more an advanced fitness level. The views over Queenstown are amazing and if you started later in the morning, you could enjoy the Gondola at the same time.
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