An alpine helihike through the dramatic landscape of the Nelson regions highest mountain
Mt Owen offers a big, bold and fascinating marble karst landscape, a vast array of alpine meadow plants and the highest peak (just under 1900 metres) in the Kahurangi National Park. The unusual landscape, which features some of New Zealand’s oldest rock, was one of the sites used in the Lord of the Rings filming. Flying from Nelson or Motueka, the 25 minute helicopter flight with its ascent up Blue Creek is a dramatic introduction to the area, before landing in an alpine meadow called “The Hay Paddock” (not that hay would ever have been made up here), surrounded by impressive landscape near Sentinel Hill on the Mt Owen massif.
The Owen Plateau is a raised platform of limestone with curious geology, old gold history and the highest peak in the Northwest Nelson region. After the helicopter departs to its standby location, the route winds its way through the labyrinth of karst boulders and fissures to the flat top of Mt Owen, where you will have stunning 360 degree views of the Kahurangi and Nelson Lakes National Parks. It’s around 300 metres of non-technical climbing from the tussock basin through curious and convoluted rock structure, full of crevasses, slumps and sinkholes; a strange and at times adventurous landscape requiring some agility to negotiate.
Rejoining the helicopter near Sunrise Peak, you will fly past the impressive escarpments on the southern side of the mountain where the entrance to Bulmer cave provides access to over ninety kilometres of caving system, then take a superb descent through the narrow bush clad Granity Creek on our way back to base.
The trip is suitable for reasonably fit and agile travellers who want to challenge themselves a little. It is non-technical, but it is a steady climb for around two hours. The overall trip from departure in the helicopter to return is around five hours, with three of these climbing and walking.
The trip cost is lowest from the helibase near Nelson, but we can collect you by helicopter from any Lodge at additional cost.
Helicopter, guide and lunch.
We can supply extra clothing, day packs and walking poles if you require them.
How strenuous is the hike?
It is a 300 metre (1000ft) steady climb which requires reasonable fitness. There is a route rather than a track, which at time requires scrambling over firm marble surfaces. It is not technical.
What would happen if bad weather descended quickly?
The helicopter remains on the mountain with us. We have radio and phone contact with it, and in the event of a sudden change, such as low cloud/poor visibility we are able to call the helicopter to leave immediately. There is also a hut about 40 minutes walk from our landing site on the mountain which can be used in the event of an emergency.
What kind of gear/clothing do I need?
This is an alpine trip and the weather can change quickly in New Zealand. You should have a polypropylene or wool undergarment next to your skin, shirt, and a warm fleece or wool pullover, plus a windproof jacket. Most New Zealanders wear shorts, preferably of the quick drying type, although travel type trousers are fine. Avoid cotton garments if possible. We can usually supply this type of clothing if required. Trainers or running shoes are adequate for this trip, light hiking shoes or boots are better. A day pack and water bottle are useful. (we can also supply these)