Rome Ridge/Rough Creek Alpine CircuitExperienced
Submitted by Mike Steel
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A short but sporty 16km alpine circuit that starts and finishes at the Arthur's Pass visitor centre and traverses various summits for awesome views, with bush, streams, and a scree descent. The route heads up Mt Rolleston's Rome Ridge (via Coral track), then turns left along the connecting ridge to Avalanche Peak, and on to Mt Lyell and Mt Bealey, before dropping off into (aptly-named) Rough Creek. Best not to wear your brand new running shoes on this - the soles may get a bit scuffed - and expect the running sections to be separated by some much slower shuffling/clambering sections.
From the village head north beside the road, cross McGrath Creek go round the bend and get onto the Coral Track. This leads steeply up a track through dense beech forest before breaking out into the open ridge. Shortly above you emerge onto a flattish section with good views up the (partly runnable) ridge towards Mt Rolleston. Higher up the ridge narrows, and there are a few obstacles, easily traversed. The skyline ridge on the left is the one you will be joining - you can get their by either (i) climbing the last steep buttress (once on the top, you can also head right towards Mt Rolleston for 10 minutes - it looks climbable from here but when you get to the infamous 'gap' you will see why its not!); or, more easily and quickly, (ii) cut across a scree slope onto the connecting ridge.
Continue on the connecting ridge south avoiding the first obstacle and either climbing or sidling the remainder, with parts of this ridge become quite runnable, particularly after the big-scree-slide into the Crow river is passed. On the climb up to Avalanche peak keep hard right and climb the right-hand outlier, before heading across to join the mass of friendly tourists and locals (and kea) that are likely to be on the summit. From there it's very fast and pleasant descent and traverse to Mt Lyell, after which the route takes a left-hand turn and traverses an assortment of enjoyable rock obstacles (which look harder than they are) before the final push to the summit of Mt Bealey.
Admire the views in the knowledge that it's all downhill from here. An exhilarating run down the faint trail brings you to the saddle between the high and low peak. At this point (but not before) drop down the obvious scree slide (tending leftwards) into Rough Creek. The last 2km is a joyous frolic down a steep and wild creek, complete with waterfalls, and occasional cairns that suggest possible shortcuts through scrub or bush. Eventually when you see the bridge, a track on the right (then later crossing the stream to the left) leads quickly back to the road and village.
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Features of interest
Panoramic mountain and glacier views.
Make Up of Run
Untracked / Route only: 50%
Technical Single Track: 30%
Moderate Single Track: 20%
Arthurs Pass Visitor Centre car park (opposite the railway station/toilets)
Plenty of safe parking. Turn side mirrors in to avoid keas trying to remove the shiny mirrors.
Don't attempt this trip unless you have clear visibility. Also, if you're on the connecting ridge and the weather turns bad then head down Scott's Track from Avalanche peak. Don't attempt to descend directly from the connecting ridge (either north or south of Avalanche peak) since they are badly bluffed (there is a route down into the Crow Valley - indicated by a marker, but this lands you a long way from the village). If you are unsure of the descent into Rough Creek there is a track that descends from the low peak of Mt Bealey (this will be faster than Rough Creek, but less 'fun').
Thermal leggings, Long-sleeved thermal top, Seam-sealed waterproof jacket, Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), Whistle, First aid kit, Extra food for emergencies, Survival blanket, Cellphone, Compass, Map.
No water before Rough Creek - take plenty of water (2 litres) when you start out.
Not feasible in winter when snow coats the slopes (and avalanche risk into Rough Creek). A summertime 'run'.
Don't attempt this in poor visibility, or after heavy rain (Rough Creek could be a problem).
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See other runs nearby:
Bealey - Avalanche Traverse
Avalanche Peak - Crow River
Coal Pit Spur Loop
Waimak Col (Otira to Klondyke)
The Bloody Limit
Oates for Breakfast
Encompassing Arthur's Pass
Barker's for Brunch
KKK (Klondyke - Kelly - Klondyke)
Poulter River Ranger
Dash, Bash, Splash and Dash Harman Pass
Arthur's Pass Taster