Peak bagging is a popular pastime around the world and has been a term increasingly on the lips of Kiwi trail runners and hikers in recent years.
Written by Rob Bathgate
Updated July 5
Peak bagging is a popular pastime around the world and has been a term increasingly on the lips of Kiwi trail runners and hikers in recent years. In recognition of this trend the Wild Things Peak Directory has been created with the following key goals in mind:
NB the Directory is NOT an exhaustive list of all New Zealand mountains and most specifically excludes peaks that are the domain of mountaineers rather than runners or hikers. While the cross-over into mountaineering territory can be something of a grey area we have done our best to provide definitive guidelines as to what is/isn’t a running/hiking peak and to grade each peak to give the user an idea of how close to this crossover any peak comes. For further details read on…
Unlike the Wild Things Trail Directory, that offers runners prescribed routes (and detailed instructions) to follow, the Peak Directory is much more basic and deliberately provides little more than the location, height and grade of peaks. This reflects both the ‘do it yourself’ philosophy of peak bagging and the simple fact that there are often many different routes to the top of a peak. Part of the fun is planning your own route, working out the best way to get there and what peaks might be combined to make a great day out or a great multi-day running/hiking/fastpacking trip.
That said, there is provision made for users to add Trip Notes that can be shared to assist others who may wish to follow in their footsteps. We encourage all peak baggers to share their experiences in this way.
What ‘peaks’ make it on to any formalised list of ‘Peaks’ and which are left out is often a topic of hot debate, so some formal guidelines are required (and some exceptions allowed to keep things from becoming too rule-bound!)
The guidelines for the listing provided by the Wild Things Peak Directory are as follows:
1. NAMED PEAKS: Only peaks that are NAMED on the most recent online version of NZ Topo Map qualify. If a peak has only a spot height and no name then it is not included. The only exception to this rule is in the case of a high point that is well known to locals by a name that is not shown on NZ Topo Map. Inclusion of such a peak will be at the discretion of the Peak Directory admins.
2. NON-TECHNICAL: Any peaks that are generally recognised as requiring ropes and other mountaineering equipment (including crampons rather than just microspikes) in good summer conditions are excluded. This generally means a Seriousness Grade of no more than I and a Technical Grade of no more than 2 as defined by the New Zealand Alpine Club. NOTE: many routes that qualify and are not especially demanding in good summer conditions will become a lot more challenging and hazardous in poor weather or winter conditions. Always know your limits and stay within them!
3. PROMINENCE: Any named peak must have a 100m prominence above the surrounding landscape i.e. have a fall of at least 100m on all sides and in all directions. Exceptions may be made for low peaks near sea level if they are deemed to have local significance e.g. North Head in Auckland. Inclusion of these lower peaks will be at the discretion of the Peak Directory admins.
4. SEPARATION: For any peak to be included it must be a minimum of 1km of travel from another named peak AND have a descent/re-ascent of at least 100 vertical metres, regardless of direction of travel, to or from that neighbouring peak. Where two or more peaks vie for contention under this guideline only the higher/highest Peak will be included. This rules out many sub-peaks on ridges that lead to a more prominent, major Peak. Occasional exceptions will be made where a cluster of named peaks make up part of a well-established peak-bagging route or round e.g. the Tararua 1500’s.
5. ACCESS: For the most part all listed Peaks are on publicly accessible land administered by DoC or other public bodies. Peaks on private land are only included if it is known that the landowner is generally amenable to access requests. Please bear in mind though, that when planning a route to a Peak that is on public land, you will still need to consider the status of all land used for the approach, and ensure permission is gained to access any private land across which your route takes you.
6. CLEAR APPROACH: any peak that requires extensive or particularly arduous bush-bashing to be reached has generally been excluded. Exceptions may exist and new submissions that possibly fall foul of this guideline will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
7. REMOTENESS: this is a grey area – how remote is too remote? We have exercised our own judgement on this, ruling out potential Peaks in areas such as Fiordland, because difficulty and/or cost of access is beyond what is considerable reasonable. We will continue to exercise our own judgement on this criteria when considering new submissions.
The following scale has been developed to grade the technical difficulty of the listed Peaks. Bear in mind the grading is based on what you can expect to find in good summer conditions. As noted above (Pt 2) many Peaks will become a lot more challenging and hazardous in poor weather or winter conditions.
- Straightforward*: Little or no technical difficulty or exposure
- Moderate: Some easy scrambling and/or slight exposure
- Difficult: Some hard scrambling and/or moderate exposure
- Extreme: Some very hard scrambling and/or severe exposure
* NOTE: The term ‘Straightforward’ refers ONLY to the lack of technical terrain. It does NOT imply that the Peak is automatically easy to bag. It may still involve a long and strenuous access run/hike and/or steep climbs. Plan accordingly and stay within what is prudent given your abilities, fitness and experience.
Some Peaks have not yet been graded. If you have experience of one of these Peaks please use the green button to provide feedback so we can allocate a grade.
Every time you bag a peak that is listed in the Directory you can claim Peak Points. This should happen automatically if you have a Strava account connected to your Wild Things account OR you can do it manually by clicking the 'I DID IT' button on the detail page for any listed Peak.
The points system is very simple which each Peak scoring its height above sea level e.g. a 1250m peak = 1,250 Peak Points; a 342m peak = 342 Peak Points etc.
When planning peak bagging routes you need to be vigilant with respect to land access and make sure you don't stray on to private land without permission. The following sources will be helpful (as will the Trip Notes in the Peak Directory as they get added over time):
- DOC maps: under the 'DOC features' tab tick 'Public conservation areas' to see all land that is under DOC administration. You'll also find it helpful to tick 'Walking and tramping tracks' and possibly 'Huts'. Under the 'Base Map' filter tick 'Topo'
- Walking Access Aotearoa: gives similar info to DOC maps but with more detail and is more easily searched by location.
- ClimbNZ: an online database of NZ peaks with a focus on mountaineering - a useful way to check just how technical a route is on bigger mountains.
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