Located in Nelson Lakes National Park, Mt Robert rises steeply from the still waters of Lake Rotoiti. Although one of the lower summits in the park, it towers impressively over the small township of St Arnaud. The 5 hour daywalk which circuits the mountain’s flanks offers incredible views, and passes by a number of cute little huts and shelters.
|Location/List||South Island, New Zealand|
|Location Coordinates||41? 49′ 57″ S, 172? 48′ 40″ E|
|Nearest Town/s||St Arnaud, Nelson
After checking track and weather conditions with the local DOC Office in St Arnaud (it can snow on the tops at any time of year), leave the township of St Arnaud and turn down the signposted road leading to the Western Lakeside DOC camping ground. Pass by the stunning little boat ramp (and perhaps take a moment to admire Mt Robert), and continue up the dirt road, past the campgrounds, and across the small bridge which traverses the source of the Buller River.
There are three carparks at the top of the road. If following the Pinchgut/Paddy’s track circuit (as we describe here) park at the second carpark, by the Paddy’s Track signpost. (The first carpark is where the Lakeside track exits, and the top carpark is where the Pinchgut Track starts from.)
Nelson Lakes Shuttles run a comprehensive shuttle service to many tramps in this area, including to the Mt Robert carpark from St Arnaud ($10 per person).
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NZ Topographic Map
Our Recommended Route
If parked at the middle carpark by Paddy’s Track, first walk up the 4WD road to the top carpark. Curiously, when we visited, there was no sign to indicate where Pinchgut Track starts, only one to the Speargrass Creek track. However, Pinchgut Track starts from between the two signposts on your left as you enter the top carpark, and is a reasonably obvious pathway up the hillside.
The track zigzags many times up the mountain, first through grassland and scrub, and then through beech forest. Much of the original forest was burned down in an accidental fire in 1887 (and suffered from subsequent controlled fires for farming after this time), and the beautiful forest you pass through has regrown after replanting started in the 1960’s. After about 1 to 1.5 hours of ascending the switchbacks, you will reach the Bushedge Shelter. Take a moment to peek inside the cute little shelter, and note the informational sign about what to do if you see a tagged Kea in the park.
Not long after leaving the shelter, the track starts to sidle around the summit of Mt Robert, and snow poles begin to demarcate the route. As you reach the poles, start looking over your left shoulder for the cairn that marks the summit of Mt Robert. Leave the marked route and head up the easy slope to bag the peak at 1421m. To get better views, you can descend a little towards the western edge of the summit. Of course in misty or icy conditions this is not recommended as the summit drops away quite steeply on its north-western sides.
It is actually quite easy to miss the summit if you are not watching for it, as Mt Robert does not have much prominence on it’s southern slopes. In fact you will see that Mt Robert really is the lowest point of the Robert Ridge, which extends over Flagtop (1690m), Julius Summit (1794m), and on to Angelus Hut. However, we include it on our peak bagging list as it makes a superb day walk, and because of its striking visual prominence when viewed from St Arnaud.
Rejoin the poled route and continue down to the second of the small shelters (Relax Shelter). From the shelter the poled route continues up the ridge and eventually to Angelus Hut. On a summers day this is where many of your fellow trampers will be heading, however, to complete the Mt Robert circuit daywalk, turn left and follow the signs down Paddy’s Track down to Bushline Hut (14 bunks). Bushline Hut is the second hut you come to on Paddys Track, the first is a private (and locked) ski hut.
This track takes slighty longer than returning the way you came (approx 2.5 hours from Mt Robert summit), but it gives you a different set of views and avoids that much dreaded backtracking. Paddys Track is not as well travelled and formed as Pinchgut Track, but the gravelly track is still reasonably easy tramping in dry conditions.
After passing Bushline Hut, you zigzag your way down the mountain again, and then sidle around the north western flank. The track is not all downhill at this point, as you head upwards and cross over two large scree slopes. Be sure you maintain your concentration right to the end of the walk, as the track becomes very narrow a few moments before you reach the carpark.