Added by Alex Tande
This challenging but very rewarding climb will provide epic views of the Marlborough region. Spreading from the vineyards all the way to the water. Some of the greenest greens will provide the easy walk in before the climb to the summit.
This is a brutal ascent and decent. I am not going to sugar coat this one. You do get the reward at the top, but you are working for it.
Highway 6 between Blenheim and Nelson is the main road to reach this location. Just north of the Wairau river on hwy 6 is a road called Northbank road, take it! There should be signs directing you towards Mt. Richmond Forest Park. Follow this road until you reach Pine Valley Road. Stay on Pine Valley road all the way until the end. The final approach to the trailhead is a gravel road that has a few gates across the road. The road leading up is private property, so please be sure to leave the gates as you found them. If you need to open them to drive through, that is perfectly acceptable, but make sure you turn around and close the gate after you have driven through. Some of the greatest things New Zealand has to offer would not be possible without the generosity of private land owners.
In the first half kilometer, there is a little side track heading up towards a waterfall. It is a unique waterfall, pretty cool little spot to check out. It doesn't add much time, and I would recommend doing it at the beginning of the trip, as towards the end it can be tougher to muster the energy and strength.
In the first part of the track, there is a swinging bridge, it is relatively short, but it does sway and move while walking across. Not a great way to get around it, but just wanted to give a heads up.
For the first couple kilometers, or the first hour, you get to amble alongside a gently flowing stream. There is moss everywhere. It is some of the most green I have ever seen in once place. Sunlight streaming down through the canopy lights up patches as you walk along. I have a very strong internal battle wanting to look up and enjoy, but not trip over a rock and land flat on my face.
After the initial part of the walk, you will rock hop across the stream and start your ascent. This is 100% where the advanced rating comes into play. While there is nothing technical, the trail is clearly marked and clear, the overall ascent is truly brutal. You start to climb, and you don't stop climbing until you reach the summit. The elevation gain has got to be close to 1600 meters. The stream is about at sea level, and the peak is 1,641 meters tall. The trail going up is very well marked, there are DOC orange triangles everywhere. It is a well defined track this is quite easy to follow.
The track follows the ridgeline up through the tree line and out into the exposed rack face. Once you break the tree line the track does cross a scree field that can cause some cautious footing. Following the track will bring you to Mt. Fishtail hut. If the weather is bad or looks like it could be changing,hang out in the hut and ensure that is is safe passage to the summit. The weather changed drastically in the short time I was up near the peak. The hut also offers a spot to spend the night if you don't want to attack the summit and descent all in one day.
When leaving the hut you can clearly see the summit of Mt. Fishtail. There is a grassy patch leading up towards to the summit. As you are looking at the peak, it is on your left hand side of the boulder field. Following the grass patch, pick your way through the boulders, and scramble your way up to the ridgeline. Once cresting the side, the remainder to the summit is straightforward and not too strenuous walk along the ridgeline.
After reaching the summit, enjoy the views that you worked so hard to achieve. The descent is the part where caution needs to be used. The boulder field descent is a bit sketchy. There were lots of loose boulders and the scree makes it hard to get solid footing. Please take your time and ensure each footstep is secure before progressing. It will take extra time, but worth it in order to avoid an ankle injury.
It is just an out and back course, following the orange triangles back down to the river, and then following the river back out to the car park.
The descent is the most painful time of the hike. It is a very steep descent, working the quadriceps and the knees. There is no relief until you reach the stream. It is a constant downhill with some seriously steep sections. It took me a couple days to walk without being sore. Hiking up in one day, staying in the hut, and hiking down the next would be my suggestion. The 10 hour day hike up and down was brutal. Great views and a beautiful track make the effort worth it, but know your fitness level and know your limitations.
The 18 kilometer round trip (to the summit, only about 16 to the hut and back) hike with a total of 3,282 meter elevation change, 10 hour hike is a challenge that is awaiting the most dedicated hikers.
- sturdy boots
- more water
- warm layer/windbreaker for the summit
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