Top Nav


Nelson Lakes National Park

Nelson Lakes National Park is situated in the north of New Zealand’s South Island. The top of the South Island contains a spectacular variety of mountains, stretching from the majestic Kaikoura Ranges in the east, to the scenic gems of Nelson Lakes, the Spenser Mountains, and Kahurangi National Park in the west.


The Travers Range peaks, Mt Angelus (2084m), Mt Hopeless (2278m), Mt Cupola (2263m), and Mt Travers (2338m), are readily climbed from huts in the Travers valley and its tributaries. The Angelus basin is a popular base for ski touring; Mt Hopeless is the most difficult peak on the range; while Mt Travers is straightforward from Summit Creek.

Mt Franklin (2340m) has routes from both branches of the Sabine River. Mt Mahanga (2187m) is climbed from the head of the West Sabine. Mt Ella (2256m) is climbed from the D’Urville River, or by long routes from the Matakitaki River.

The Spenser Mountains, lying between the Matakitaki and the Waiau valleys, include Mt Humboldt(2217m) and Mt Una (2301m), the Faerie Queene (2237m), and Gloriana Pk (2210m). The latter two are climbed from the upper Ada River but the others are less accessible.

The mountains between the Lewis Pass road and Arthur’s Pass National Park are less interesting to the mountaineer, being open tops with only a few summits exceeding 1800m.

Some recommended routes

Mt Hopeless via Hopeless Creek Route
This is an easy climb technically, and a good descent route. Five minutes below Hopeless Hut cross to the true right of a side stream. Climb a steep track (cairned) on the true right to avoid a deep gorge. When the stream levels narrow ribs lead to an often snow-filled basin above. Head south-west to a col in the east ridge then climb a gut angling to the Travers Range. In summer, a safer alternative to the gut is to climb the outlier peak to the north. A short scramble leads south to the summit.

Mt Hopeless via Hopeless Couloir
This is one of the last remnants of the glaciers which carved the mountains and valleys of the park. During summer it becomes crevassed and is sometimes unclimbable. Sidle to the bottom of the couloir fromCupola Basin Hut or climb bluffs walling the northern head of Cupola Stream from campsites above the forest. The couloir is initially wide but narrows and steepens towards the top where a rope may be needed, and ends at the same col as for the Hopeless Creek route.

Kehu Peak (2220m) via North West Face
An excellent rock route when the face is free of snow. From Upper Travers Hut, climb tussock and scree to a wide shelf. Sidle south then ascend a major scree basin under Kehu to the steep firm rock of the face. There are several routes to the range above and then a scramble south to the summit.

Mt Franklin via Moraine Wall Route
The highest peak in the park is usually climbed from Blue Lake Hut. From the moraine wall above Blue Lake, a tussock and scree spur gives access to a high scree basin. At its head, climb moderate rock on the right of a couloir leading to the ridge. An exposed section of ridge can be turned on the southern slopes.Towards Pk 2291m. Traverse the peak on moderate rock, or sidle the slopes on its north-west flank into the high saddle between Pk 2291m and Franklin. Pleasant rock scrambling gains the southern shoulder.

Gloriana Peak via Ada Pass Route
Gloriana is the attractive peak seen from near the Lewis Pass. From Ada Pass Hut follow Camera Gully to a tarn at its head. Climb north-east from the tarn to a saddle in the range. A short climb to the west leads to Gloriana Pk.

Faerie Queene via the Divide Route
Use the Camera Gully route to gain the ridge above the Camera Gully tarn. Easy ridge travel leads to the summit.


Kaikoura – Kahurangi: A Guide for Climbers (NZAC, 2006), by Ben Winubst


Topo50 series:

BS23 Matakitaki

BS24 Mount Robert

BS25 Severn

BT23 Lewis Pass

BT24 Ada Flat

More about Topo50 maps.

Maps can be purchased from Mapworld who offer NZAC members a 10% discount.

Web Design & Development by Publica