The strenuous but exhilarating Mount Somers Track (25km loop; 2–3 days; 1000m ascent) makes a subalpine loop round the mountain, passing abandoned coal mines, volcanic formations and a deep river canyon.

The entire loop is best tackled anticlockwise from Staveley. However, roads meet the loop in the west at Woolshed Creek (accessed from Mount Somers) and in the east at Sharplins Falls car park (accessed from Staveley), so if you don’t fancy the whole thing you can walk either half and get your vehicle shuttled.

Tickets and equipment

There is no booking system. Buy DOC hut tickets ($15.30 for each hut) before you start at the stores in Staveley or Mount Somers, or from i-SITEs or DOC offices. You’ll need to carry a cooking stove, pots and all your food; water at the huts should be treated. Marker poles point the way adequately in most conditions but the rolling country on top of the hills is subject to disorientating fog, so bring a map and compass.

Transport

Staveley Horse Treks (
t
03 303 0809, [email protected]) do vehicle shuttles for $35. After dropping you at the Woolshed Creek trailhead, they keep your vehicle safe near Sharplin Falls car park ready for your emergence from the wilds. Methven Travel (
t
03 302 8106) operates an on demand shuttle service from Methven to Woolshed Creek car park ($140 for 1–4 people) or Sharplin Falls car park ($80 for 1–4 people).

The route

Sharplin Falls Car Park to Pinnacles Hut

(5km; 3hr 45min; 470m ascent). The most popular section of the track is the first 2km to Sharplin Falls, a modest cascade in a pretty canyon. There are lots of steps but they’re even and well cared for. The route then climbs steadily through beech forest, reaching the tree line at Pinnacles Hut (19 bunks), nestled below rock monoliths frequently used by climbers.

Pinnacles Hut to Woolshed Creek Hut

(6.2km; 3hr; 265m ascent). Climb towards the 1170m saddle, now through treeless tussock with wide views into the mountains and back to the plains. On the descent, take the 5min side trip to the Water Caves, where a stream courses below a rockfall of house-sized boulders. It is then only 10min to the modern Woolshed Creek Hut (26 bunks), a good place to stay a couple of nights, spending the intervening day exploring the little valleys and canyons hereabouts.

Woolshed Creek Hut to the Sharplin Falls car park

(13.5km; 8hr; 400m ascent). The tramp follows the South Face Route around the mountain and feels quite different. There’s a less isolated feel as you gaze across the Canterbury flatlands towards the distant coast. The terrain is a mix of high-country scrub (somewhat exposed at times) and beech forest. Soon after leaving the hut, the Howden Falls side track is worth a quick look. You then climb a ridge before traversing tussock-covered flats, passing a new day-shelter at about the halfway point. After a steep climb up through beech forest you begin the long descent, first on a ridge with great views then down into the bush to Sharplin Falls car park.