Mt Aicken

TRACK GRADE: Tramping Track & Unmarked Route

WALKING TIME: 6 to 8 hours return

SKILLS REQUIRED: You must have good navigation skills to be able to attempt this mountain successfully.

FEATURES: Steep climb, alpine tops, great views

AREA BROCHURE: Discover Arthur's Pass Booklet (19MB)

WARNING: Because of continuing problems (including fatalities) encountered on this route by walkers please take note of the following advise...
  • This is a "day walk", leave early to allow for sufficient daylight hours.
  • If there is a poor weather forecast do not attempt this route. If there is fog/cloud cover on the mountain turn around.
  • TELL SOMEONE YOUR PLANS, and remember to let them know when you return safely.
  • Do not walk alone on this route, find an appropriate partner.
  • Take sufficient clothing, food, water & medical needs to be able to survive a night out in cold wet conditions. Search & Rescue activity should commence the day following your intended "out date".
  • If you own a compass take it with you.
  • Test your cellphone in Arthur's Pass Village, if it works there, take it with you, it should work on all Village side aspects of this mountain whilst in the forest (not outside tree-line necessarily), if you get lost or in trouble call 111. Don't waste your phone battery! Phones can be an unreliable way of getting help. Better still take a PLB with you as well (Arthur's Pass Visitor Centre hires them).
  • If you become lost, retrace your steps if possible to refind the correct route. If you cannot, find shelter (rocks, trees, tussocks), stay where you are.
  • DO NOT push into the treeline too far except to seek shelter, there are large hidden cliffs and alternate ways down DO NOT exist. If you are not on the marked track (orange triangles) STOP!
  • DO NOT follow streams/creeks off the mountain, many of these go over very large waterfalls or contain extensive loose rock.
  • If you see searchers (helicopter, ground crews) attract attention by moving to open ground, yelling, waving bright clothing. If you are injured leave something bright in clear view near you in case you lose consciousness.
  • At night you can signal towards the Village (street lights are visible) by triggering your camera flash on every hour.

LOCATION:This track begins at the Punchbowl road carpark, Just North of the Middle South Restaurant.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION: Because of continuing problems being had by walkers on this route a "blow by blow" description follows (to open this description in a new window for printing Click Here)...

Follow the Punchbowl Falls walking track for about 15 minutes. The turn off to Mt Aicken is found at the highest point on the Punchbowl Track (not signposted). The track climbs rapidly passing an old pipeline that once fed a hydroelectric generator plant used during the rail tunnel construction. The track then climbs steeply, being well marked at this point, but shortly opens onto the first of several boggy clearings where some stone cairns mark the way back into the forest above. Take note at this point of the cliff line into the Punchbowl Falls area that the track traverses up and where the track leaves the cliff for your return journey. A small easily climbed 3 metre rock step is encountered in the next section of forest. The track skirts out onto a small cliff with some furher steep scrambles overlooking the village then ascends to a short scree gully beside a bluff to arrive at treeline. DENSE TRACK MARKING STOPS AT THIS POINT. It is very important you remember this location and the route onwards for your return journey, IT IS the only way off this mountain!
Mt Aicken Route
The route then climbs easily the sparsely tussocked cliff edge of the Punchbowl Creek escarpment with strategic snow-pole markers every 300 metres or so. The tussock line is reached at about 1600m, with the ridge becoming very rocky. It then climbs up a short scree slope onto a step. From here the route climbs up a steep gully (exposed to Punchbowl Creek) onto a very small saddle on a ridge sweeping down southwards, THIS IS WHERE TRACK MARKING STOPS (Snow-Pole in Saddle, and Orange Triangles bolted to rocks below). Keeping Punchbowl Creek on your left side continue to follow this ridge, the initial section is jagged and narrow (care is required in icy or windy conditions) but soon relents into easily followed ridgeline. The prominent 1844m high point is soon reached with its jagged spur dropping off southwards. Continue to keep the Punchbowl Falls Creek on your left and follow the broadening ridge onto the 1863m high point. The actual summit of Mt Aicken (1858m) is along a loose craggy ridge to the southeast, it is rarely climbed and can be dangerous in strong winds or icy conditions.

On your return journey it is VERY IMPORTANT to keep Punchbowl Creek on your RIGHT (north) SIDE! Should you leave the ridge for any reason make sure you regain it again, it is important to note that from the correct route you can always look down the very steep escarpment into Punchbowl Creek.

Common navigation problems include...

  • Dropping into the scree basin from the 1844m point, either regaining the southern ridge and following it or continuing down easy ground - both lead to the extremely dangerous Graham Creek area - you must retrace your steps northwards.
  • A very common practice is to follow the correct ridge, but continue along the ridge southwards, therefore avoiding the steep gully climb from the lower route, this is OK as long as you descend the earliest scree towards the tussocks then travel immediately northwards again to rejoin the route on the edge of the steep Punchbowl escarpment.
  • Another very common problem is for walkers to descend towards the obvious trig station (large man made marker) seen from the bluff at treeline, avoid this as no track leads to or away from it, the track is northwards from this bluff.

AdventureSmart - Tell someone where you are going!So you have an enjoyable and safe time for your visit to Arthur's Pass National Park, follow the Land Safety Code:

  • Choose the right trip
    • Learn about the route and make sure you have the skills for it.
  • Understand the weather
    • It can change fast. Check the forecast and change your plans if needed.
  • Pack warm clothes and extra food
    • Prepare for bad weather and an unexpected night out.
  • Share your plans and take ways to get help
    • Telling a trusted person your trip details and taking a distress beacon can save your life.
  • Take care of yourself and each other
    • Eat, drink and rest, stick with your group and make decisions together.

For more information, visit or use the Plan My Walk system

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