Having returned from our overseas adventures and endless days of pack carrying and poor attempts to speak Russian, we naturally headed straight for the mountains at the first sign of good weather. Mt Cloudsley is easily accessible from Castle Hill Village and only a shortish drive from Christchurch on the way to Arthur's Pass. At 2107m the difficulty lies in your level of fitness rather than any technical ability. Long Spur could just as easily be named 'the spur that never ends' or 'false horizon spur' as we were continually lulled into a false sense of accomplishment in climbing it. We had set out along the Hogs Back track at 9.30am on a beautiful clear winter's day after leaving the trusty Subaru at the car park on Castle Hill Drive. The ground was still frozen and we made good progress up the wide ridge for the first hour or so. There are a few steep sections of scree where you feel like you are sliding backwards every second step - mostly because you are, but even the rocky sections are quite easily negotiated.
It is possible to sidle around point 1855 on the north side if you want to avoid the extra climb and it wasn't until the other side that we hit snow for the first time. The wind tends to blow a lot of snow off this mountain and there was almost a perfect line of snow beside rock on the very top of the ridge as we ascended the final 300m. Although we were hoping to use our ice axes the snow was soft enough to walk comfortably all the way to the top. From the summit you can choose to be hard core and make your way to the highest peak in the Craigieburn Range, Mt Enys (2194m) or return the way you came. I have a sneaking suspicion that in summer you could also scree run down into the valley rather than walking back down Long Spur. We hadn't left early enough to make it to Enys and back during daylight and decided to call it a day and head back to the car. The descent was significantly quicker than the climb and we were back in Darfield for a pie and a coffee well before night fall.
Time up: 3.45h Total return: 6h Steak and Pepper Pies: 2
In New Zealand we don't go hiking, walking or frolicking in the wilderness - we tramp.