This is an amazing route that I liken to the Knife Edge on Katahdin. Not ever having been to this area in New Zealand before, I just wanted to see if this ridge went and didn't cliff out. Well, it doesn't cliff out (although you really think it is going to a few times before you look over that gendarme and see that there is a way down) and this was pure joy for me. Probably a half mile (or about a little less than a kilometer) of Class 3 ridge scrambling with one move of Class 4 at the end. The exposure is never really that bad, just fun. Views are amazing along the way and really, if you wanted to, you could probably bail off between gendarmes at several points if you found it too loose or unenjoyable. I would highly recommend this loop hike to include Avalanche Peak, Lyell Peak and Mount Bealey, I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Getting ThereSee the Getting There section of either the Mt. Bealey page or the Avalanche Peak page for directions to the trailhead for Scotts Track if you wish to do this one from the north and Avalanche Peak. (I'd recommend the loop from the north to south.)
If you are going to do this one from Bealey over to Lyell, see the Getting There section of the Mt. Bealey page for directions to the Bealey Track Trailhead.
Route DescriptionI will describe this as I would recommend this from Lyell Peak to Bealey.
From Lyell Peak, take the ridge heading south. Stay on the ridge, it's easy for the first kilometer or so and Class 2. Halfway between Lyell and Bealey is Point 1778. From Lyell to Point 1778 the ridge runs straight south.
From Point 1778, the ridge turns southeast and you will see the ridge sharpen to a knife-edge. There are many gendarmes along this and it is Class 3, some exposure in parts. Stick to the ridge! It goes. Some of the dropoffs on the sides of the ridge are sheer drops. Some are easy grassy slopes and could be used as bail-offs. But if you stick to the ridge, you will have Class 3 fun for a half a mile. Up and down several gendarmes. The crux of the route comes at the last gendarme (or the most SE) right before the final easy slope up Bealey's summit mound. There is a short Class 3-4 chimney to downclimb.
Crux Class 3-4 Chimney
Some exposure of you fell and rolled off right but it is not that bad and can be avoided in the grassy slopes to the east. After that, cruise up to the cairned summit.
To descend, I would suggest the Bealey Track which follows the cliffedge from the summit down east. There is a trail with high steps and Class 3 in areas. Once down to the saddle and up to Point 1760, directly east of the summit, follow the ridgeline as it curves then northeast to the treeline. Pick up the cairns and follow to the trees and the signed trail to the Bealey Track Trailhead on the south side of Arthur's Pass (several kilometers south of Scott's Track where you started most likely so a shuttle or pickup should be arranged unless you want to walk the road into town).
To do this route from the Bealey Track, just reverse everything I just typed above and follow the ridge north to Avalanche Peak where you can take either Scott's Track or the Avalanche Peak Track back down.
Note-One hiker indicated that from around Point 1760 you could ski the scree down to Rough Creek and follow it out to the Bealey Track Trailhead. I have no proof of this but did see it mentioned in one other book. If you try this, I would suggest being careful if water levels are high.