Following the old 4WD road to the abandoned Erewhon Park Ski Field, 27 May 2023

Since April last year when Barry, Andrew and Ben climbed to the summit of Mt Potts (a big peak at 2184 metres) it had been Barry’s desire to return to the area and hike up to the tarn that they had looked across at but which they were unable to visit on their long trip that day.

We left Timaru at 7 a.m. as it is a two-hour drive to the Mt Potts track that starts 20 kilometres past Lake Clearwater, just a little further on from Mt Sunday.

A little of the history of this skifield is worth recording. Arthur Urquhart had farmed Erewhon from 1943. In 1957 he also obtained the lease for Mt Potts Station. In 1964 he exchanged a freehold area at Erewhon for a special recreational lease of 70 acres and a ski field area on Mt Potts Station. He named it Erewhon Park, bulldozed a 4wd track up the mountainside and developed a fully operational skifield. The original Mt Potts homestead, shearers’ quarters and woolshed Urquhart converted into a place offering accommodation and a restaurant. Until the skifield closed in 2014 many people flocked to the area to enjoy its remoteness and beauty.

In 1998 Mt Potts Station went through the land tenure review process whereby most of the land was ceded to DoC. The track up to the now-abandoned skifield begins with a 1.5 km easement before it reaches conservation land. It forms part of the extensive Hakatere Conservation Park.

Soon after 9 am we began the steady climb along the old 4wd track, stopping after an hour for a break when we reached the sunshine. On this near-cloudless day the views were marvellous.

Continuing on, there was one place where a large slip had to be negotiated very carefully but apart from that, there were no difficulties. It was just an unrelenting climb!

We reached what was the base of the skifield after four hours. The only remaining building is the small wooden A-frame structure that housed the long-drop dunny. Pieces of iron and lengths of rope still lie about. With wonderful views it was a good place to have lunch.

It was still another 300 metres or so to reach the tarn that was hidden from sight but with the help of Barry’s GPS we made one last uphill push and there it was, tucked under three 2,000 metre high peaks.

With a long way to descend we did not linger too long and soon arrived back at our lunchspot where we were surprised to find two mountainbikers had arrived. They must be very strong and fit to have biked all that way! They passed us at a good speed on the way down, concentrating intently on avoiding small and larger rocks on the track that could have caused a mishap. Good for them!

We arrived at the vehicles at 5 pm after what was an 8 hour tramp covering nearly 20 kilometres. After enjoying perfect weather and magical scenery inland, we drove back into the dull cloudy weather that had lingered all day on the coast. Many thanks for Barry for organising this trip. Other participants were new members Ron (from Idaho) and Mark, also Paul, Catherine, Vikki, and reporter, Dorothy

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