Avalanche Peak is a great little day trip for those who like breath taking views and punishing their quads. Starting right behind the Arthur's Pass visitors centre, the Avalanche Peak Track shoots straight up through some quite rocky terrain which is often snow covered before ending on a narrow ridge at 1833m. While this is not the kind of walk you take your Grandma on, as some sections will require all four limbs engaged as you scrabble your way towards the bush line, it's thoroughly enjoyable for anyone with a good level of fitness.
I had set out with my husband and our very energetic friend Ollie from Christchurch at around 8am. The drive to Arthurs Pass Village is around an hour and a half and we parked just off the main road right beside the visitors centre. There was definitely snow on the tops so extra insulation layers were added to our packs before we set off for the ascent. You don't get much of a warm up and my legs were burning in the first five minutes - a feeling that thankfully wore off once we got into it. Conveniently, we took a moment to capture a few shots of the serene waterfall not long into the climb and let the body adjust to the impressive incline. It was 90 minutes to the bush line and also our first glimpse of snow. As the trees make way for tussock you can look back down the valley in both directions and up towards the summit which was well covered in the white stuff. We hadn't taken ice axes as the snow was fresh but the trekking poles came in handy on the steep slope as we made our way towards the top of the ridge.
Unfortunately we missed a good deal of the view as it started snowing as soon as we reached the summit, but Derek the friendly kea stepped up to entertain us. I wonder what tourists think of going all the way to the top of a mountain in New Zealand and finding a basically tame endangered bird. We let him destroy the mud basket on one of poles while we ate lunch but he wasn't keen to follow us back down. The snow slope we had carefully made our way up half an hour earlier was much more quickly navigated on our butts on the return journey. You can make your way back the way you have come or instead descend on the slightly gentler Scott's Track which returns you to the road just north of the township. Expect to take just as long to get back down unless you want to swing from the tree branches which significantly speeds the descent.
In New Zealand we don't go hiking, walking or frolicking in the wilderness - we tramp.