Lake Alta with two ‘tweens’
When you new to Queenstown, and at least at the beginning when only one of us were working you really need to do things on the budget. As mentioned previously Queenstown offers a lot of mountaineering activities that you can do without any proper gear. We live literally on the doorstep of The Remarkables mountain range, and it would be silly not to use that opportunity. Thera are couple of websites showing all hiking (or tramping as they call them here) routes around Queenstown, and that is how we found out about Lake Alta.
Few interesting information’s that I have researched on internet: Lake Alta is a glacial lake in The Remarkables; its size is approximately 500m by 250m; surface elevation around 1800m; provides amazing alpine scenery; view towards Single Cone and Double Cone (the highest peaks of the range); access is family friendly, takes around 3.5km from Remarkables Ski field car park; elevation gain 204m depending on the fitness level it takes around 30-45min to get there and featured in first Lord Of The Rings film as part of Dimrill Dale where The Fellowship Of The Ring rested briefly after escaping the Mines of Moria.
We set of very early just to enjoy the morning up the mountains and avoid people. To access the road to the ski field you only have pay 10 dollars. From the barrier at the bottom, it’s pretty steeppy climb, half through a gravel road so really 4×4 vehicle is required. We drove through the fog so couldn’t really enjoy the views, however as climbing higher and higher we could really feel the elevation gain and change of scenery. Our daughter started feeling nervous which had an impact later. Covid times really changed her, and it takes a lot of persuasion to get her out hiking. There were lots of moaning involved during the drive, but we eventually arrived at the ski field car park, elevation around 1600m.
Due to the fog, we couldn’t see a lot, but eventually found a track leading to the lake. Initially fairly easy, turning steeppier higher you go (still nothing we haven’t experienced already in France or Switzerland). After around 40min walk we finally got to the lake. Peaceful, quiet, still some patches of snow in various places, absolutely crystal-clear water, view towards Single Cone (altitude 2319m) and Double Cone. Even though it was early morning there were few people around the lake and few climbers Double Cone. Water in the lake was freezing cold, but that didn’t stop some young folks having short swim.
After short break me and Mrs Sting decided to climb up higher, as we could see a little track leading to the col providing access to higher peaks. That unfortunately freaked our Hurricane, who just refused to join. After minutes of persuasion, at some point quite firm she eventually agreed to go with us. Surprisingly Konrad didn’t need any convincing as he spotted some snow and was quite keen to play on it. It’s January after all, even though it is a summertime here. We were warned by some walkers that the track is not clearly visible and easy to miss.
As we started scrambling up, we understood what these people meant. Track literally disappeared, and we could see it continuing higher up alt the col, on the other side of the small gully. I tried to climb up on the rocks without any visible track hoping to find it higher, but eventually decided to go back to the family and cross the gully. After careful crossing through the stones, watching and helping kids Hurricane just lost it and started moaning as loud and frequent as she could. It’s very distracting when you trying to climb safely why listening to one never-ending moan. According to her everything was bad and stupid: rocks, mountains, snow, sun, literally everything. One constant buzz in your ears. We had to decide what to do, and eventually agreed that we climb to the col, and not higher than that. After quite steep climb we found track again and reached the col. Views just spectacular, disrupted by moaning Hurricane. We stayed up there for few minutes, took some pictures and started climbing down.
We decided to go towards a patch of snow so Froggy could have some fun. I was quite impressed with his natural ability to climb, and fast on steep and dangerous terrain. Matylda (Hurricane) on the other hand lost her previous calmness and hiking skills. I don’t know what happened. She was fantastic on the Matterhorn Glacier Trail or 8hrs journey to Glacier Lettendard. Anyway, she needed a lot of reassurance and support on the way down, so two of us were moving so much slower than Konrad (Froggy) and Mrs Sting. To be fair I think European tracks are easier, probably due to amount of people accessing them, making them at least visible, but this one wasn’t easy for kids for sure. At the snow patch Froggy was just overjoyed, and it was quite difficult get him moving again. As we were closing to the lake, trying to follow the track Hurricane got her overconfidence back.
We stayed at the lake for about half an hour, went into the freezing water to around mid-thigh, and eventually started walking back to the car. We chose slightly different way which was a good choice. We reached the top of one of the ski lifts and the views just struck us. The panorama was just breath-taking, we could even see the Mount Cook/Aoraki in the distance. The only thing I wanted was just to sit, watch and take some pictures. However, the moan returned, and I was just tired of it. We started going down again occasionally stopping to take more pictures.
While driving back down, we stopped at the Windy Point, the viewpoint offering stunning view of Queenstown, Lake Wakatipu, and Deer Park Heights – Warg Riders attack location from LOTR film. Just amazing really. We finished our journey in Black Gelato Peak getting some ice-creams. Overall enjoyable journey, stunning views, and important family time.