Isthmus Peak – climbing in the snow!
Isthmus Peak would be my most enjoyable climb in New Zealand so far. Knee deep in snow, incredible views and celebrating turning 34 at 1,385 meters above sea level! What a day to be alive.
How to get to Isthmus Peak:
Head out of Wanaka on State Highway 84 and turn left onto State Highway 6 (signs for Albert Town/Lake Hawea). Follow State Highway 6 for about 26kms and you will come across the Isthmus Peak Track sign. There is no designated carpark as such, just parking bays along the side of Lake Hawea. Be careful along this stretch of road as it is busy and windy.
You will need to cross the road to access the start of Isthmus Peak track.
Note: Isthmus Peak is closed annually for fawning between 20 November and 20 December.
Isthmus Peak Track:
The Isthmus Peak track starts off relatively easy and gentle winding through shady forest but before long it turns to steep rocky uneven surfaces. Lucky that doesn’t last too long though! You will then find yourself amongst a heard of cows as you walk through rather flat farm pastures.
From here the track turns into quite a steep gradient (much like Roy’s Peak). It is then a long steady inclined climb to the summit. I will be honest… there is about 7 false peaks. You think you are nearing the top and get excited only to find it’s just another curve and hill on the track!
Eventually you reach the 1,385-meter summit and are surrounded with 360-degree views of Lake Wanaka, Lake Hawera and the Southern Alps.
Well… you would do on a clear day! 😉
We climbed Isthmus Peak in September (my birthday). It was a last-minute decision as we were meant to be in Milford Sound, but the road was still closed due to snow fall & terrible weather. So, in the morning we decided to leave Te Anau and drive the 3 hours to climb Isthmus Peak.
Kicking off the climb at 1pm with the sun beaming down, we took our time and lapped up climbing in the snow. Yes, there was snow everywhere! As we veered towards the summit the snow level was knee deep and cold but so much fun!
By the time we summited it was 3.15pm (2 hours 20 minutes climbing) and it had turned cold and super windy to the point where we could barely stand. We also didn’t have much a view from the top as you can see so we snapped the photos we could and started the descend.
We started the descend at 3.25pm and was back at the car by 5.30pm. The descend was fun. I lapped up running down in the snow and stopping for photos at all the ‘false peaks’.
I would say Isthmus Peak is not as hard as Roy’s Peak but that might just be due to the lax approach I took to the climb. It is my most enjoyable climb so far with playing in snow, no pressure to be up there for sunrise and it was my birthday! We laughed, had snow fights and just took in the magnificent views the whole journey.
Most people say Isthmus Peak is a quieter than Roy’s Peak. To be honest I wouldn’t know.. with Covid-19 stopping the tourists arriving in New Zealand, both peaks were empty when we hiked them.
Isthmus Peak and Roy’s Peak are both worth the hike for the views and euphoric feeling you get at the summit. So, pen them in and go and enjoy the beauty of New Zealand.
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