Ben Lomond Track: Alpine Tramping (Hiking) Series | New Zealand

The Southern Lakes area has been
sculpted over time by colossal glaciers to form some of the most remarkable
terrain in Aotearoa. The remaining landscape holds some of
the most beautiful and challenging tramping (hiking) routes in New Zealand. One of the most accessible tracks requires a demanding 1,400 metre climb that takes
you high above Queenstown for a truly breathtaking panoramic view. The Ben Lomond track has a challenging
day walk that takes you from Queenstown to the summit of Ben Lomond to in 6-8 hours return. Its accessibility makes it a popular activity for people visiting the area, but it is a tough 1400 meter climb that
ventures high into an Alpine environment. So, there are a few things to know before
you go. The best time of year to climb Ben Lomond is between October and April, the long summer days will be a huge help. Outside of this period, snow covers the
track making it extremely hazardous to attempt. The average summer temperature is 7 to 13 degrees (C) with temperatures at the summit frequently falling well below freezing. You can expect over a hundred days of rainfall per year. It’s important to remember that you will be in an Alpine environment, which means there is a good chance you’ll experience heavy rain, strong winds, snow and freezing temperatures even in the height of summer. So, you’ll need to pack warm and waterproof layers as well as a good pair of tramping (hiking) boots. Also, take enough water
for the whole day as there isn’t any available on the track. Make sure you start your walk no later than 10:00 AM in the morning, leaving yourself enough daylight hours to get home and take a head-torch and cell phone just in case. As with all walks and tramps in New Zealand make sure you ‘leave your intentions’ with a trusted contact and inform them when you’ve finished your tramp. You can find out more about ‘leaving your intentions’ at the Mountain
Safety Council website. You can start the Ben Lomond track from
two different points. The most popular is at the bottom gondola terminal on Brecon Street. You can either take the gondola up, or start walking up the tiki
trail from here. The other alternative starting point is at the bottom of Skyline Access Rd. There are mountain bike tracks all over this first section so no matter where you start from, you’ll need to pay
special attention to the signs and take a map to avoid straying into the
mountain bike trails. At the end of the tiki trail you will reach the top
gondola station. Just follow the signs for Ben Lomond to stay on the right track Shortly above the gondola the trees will give way to an open tussock valley and from this point onwards you’ll be exposed to any incoming weather for the rest of the walk. This makes the first track junction just beyond the tree line a key decision making point. Reassess the weather here and look up higher to see what the weather looks like toward the summit. There is still a long way to the top so check your groups fitness and confidence. If you have doubts about any of these then turn around and head back down. The track on the section is well formed but be aware that there are animal tracks that cut through the tussock which can easily lead you astray. Just keep following the orange poles to stay on the right track. After 1000 meters of climbing you’ll reach the Ben Lomond saddle, this is the first place you will experience the full exposure of any Westerly weather, so it’s a good spot to take a break and assess the weather conditions. Winds will only increase from here and temperatures will drop so make sure you’re adequately prepared for
what’s ahead. Again, reassess the group’s fitness and confidence. Remember, the hardest part of the climb still remains Finally, assess how much daylight you have left. There is still one hour left to the summit from here and three hours back to Queenstown from the top. If you’re in doubt about any of this then we suggest turning around and heading home If you continue on to the summit then you will take a left at the saddle. If you turn right you’ll be heading towards Arthur’s point. This is clearly signed but the tracks can be well hidden when snow is present. The trek to the summit is steep un-marked and can be beyond many people’s abilities. This section is also prone to avalanches So, avalanche skills and equipment along with crampons and ice axes will be required to reach the top if snow is present. You are now walking on private land so please respect the landowners property and stick to the track. It narrows down in parts and a bit of rock scrambling will be required. Just take your time, and watch your footing. You still have a decent amount of climbing to do, and the higher you climb the colder it will get. So, layer up and eat food as you go to stay comfortable and energized. Once you reach the top you can bask in those beautiful panoramic views. Reassess the weather to keep an eye on any incoming fronts. If the weather is good use this time to take some photos have a rest, but make sure to keep an eye on the time and allow yourself plenty of daylight hours to make it back down. Although it looks like you may be able to head down the Western Ridge, this is only a track created by people who have gone the wrong way! This will only lead you to steep bluffs and multiple search and rescues have
occurred here because of this. To get back down you simply need to go back the way you came. Tread carefully on your descent to avoid injury and stick to the marked polled route Nearing the end there is another route that was created by people going the wrong way that heads up the ridge. This is a dead end so make sure you are following the right track marked by the orange poles. There are mountain bike tracks along the section as well so make sure you follow the signs to stay on the walking track. From here, you can either continue your descent down through the mountain bike park or treat yourself to an easy gondola ride down the rest of the mountain. Ben Lomond is a great option for those looking for a challenging Alpine adventure that’s close to the city. Just aim to give it a go between October and April. Talk to staff at the Queenstown DOC visitor centre to get up-to-date track information. Remember to check out the official Southern Lakes weather forecast at as weather can be variable at high altitudes. Finally, if the weather is poor or you don’t think this track is for you, then try the Moke lake or Bob’s Cove tracks as alternatives. Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the stunning views of the Queenstown region. #MakeItHomeNZ

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