It was our second last day in Queenstown, and as we no longer had a car we decided to check out one of the walks closer to town. A guy at the car rental company had suggested the mountain overlooking Queenstown, Ben Lomond, as it provides excellent views of it’s surrounds. We decided to catch the gondola up the first section, as it was a few hundred meters from our accomodation and it meant we could skip an annoying forest walk through pine trees. Once off the gondola, the track starts up past the luge area and for a short time, makes its way through Douglas fir and mountain beech forest. This is the very last of the shade for the remainder of the track, and should be noted when walking in hot weather.
Once out of the trees, the track is opens up to alpine tussocks and grasslands. We noted the large amount of wilding trees that are an introduced species in NZ and pose a threat to native flora. We passed some walkers who were stopping to uproot any evidence of these pests, with small tracts of land along the way allocated to various school groups and organisations who then have the job of eradicating wilding trees in that area.
The track climbs steadily up to a saddle at 1300m between Bowen Peak and Ben Lomond, following the ridgeline. We stopped at the saddle for a quick refuel, joined by various other groups of walkers. From where we sat, we could see just how popular the walk is, with people visible on the summit, others descending and even more making their way up. After admiring the views from the saddle, we then made to tackle the steepest part of the climb.
This last part of the track to the summit climbs very steeply, and while predominantly a dusty trail it can be rocky in places-though nothing challenging. The last part of the walk curves up behind the peak, before popping out on top at 1748m. There were plenty of other people on the top, so we made our way to a small spur for our lunch, and to take in the views of Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu, the Remarkables, Moke Lake and the Southern Alps. There’s a dial at the top that points out each of these sights and gives their coordinates.
We mingled with some more curious Kea parrots before making short work of the hike back down, ready for some luge action.
All up 10.8kms in 3hours and 20 minutes with 1031m ascent.