Tapuae O Uenuku is the highest peak in the Inland Kaikouras, and also the highest peak in NZ outside of the Mt Cook chain. It is a fine alpine mountain, offering stunning views, yet technically very accessible.
The main route is non-technical, but does ascend steep snow slopes and a ridge, so experience of using crampons and an ice axe is necessary.
It is generally climbed in 3 days accessed via the Hodder River.
From Blenheim drive 20 km south on SH 1, about 4 km before Sneddon turn west and drive up the Awatere valley. From Christchurch up the SH 1, to the turn off 4 km past Sneddon. This road turns into a dust track, continue up this road for about 55 km until you come to a large Suspension bridge, the only one you cross, so easy to spot. Park in the bay between the bridge and the cattle stop.
To gain the hodder river, walk up the track just opposite the Hay shed, past the farm buildings, through some gates, continue until you come to a large cairn on the track, about 45 minutes walk from the road. This is just after when you are opposite the tin hut down on the opposite bank. At the cairn descend steep slopes to the river bed.
The river bed is now followed for a few hours until a path leaves and climbs the east side of the gorge. This path climbs steeply and then traverses the slopes and later descends back into the river for a short period, before traversing the slopes on the west of the river and rising to the Hodder huts, sat on a terrace above the river. From the road to the car takes about 6 hours, but can take far longer depending on the state of the river.
From the Hut the climb carries on up the Hodder River for a short distance, then ascends up stair case stream. Rock cairns mark the line of the route on the east terrace of stair case stream. After 1.5 to 2 hrs from the huts, just past the waterfalls, the route leaves staircase creek and ascends steeply for a few hundred metres. From here the route traverses snow slopes and heads around iunto the snow basin to the North west of the summit. The large easy gully at the back of the basin provides access to a col, and the ridge to the summit. Return the same route. This is a long day and hut - hut may take 10 hours.
No permits are required, but to access the Hodder River private property is crossed. For permission to pass through call Alan and Bev Pitts 03 575 7471.
When To Climb
This peak can be climbed all year round, although the route does cross avalanche prone slopes so sound judgement is required.
The main issue is access up the river, following periods of heavy rain the river may be unpassable. This river has to be forded continually during the walk in.
Camping is allowed in the area, but good accomodation is provided at the hodder huts. There are two huts (6 and 10 bunks), and two pitt toilets. Both huts are in a good condition at the time of writing, containing running water, bunk beds with mattresses but no stove or fires. The cost is $5 per night, per person.
It is a good idea to ask Allan about the current river level and recent weather in the area when asking permission to pass through the land, he is very helpful. DoC at Kaikoura can also provide useful information on 03 319 5714.
For weather forecasts check the website of the New Zealand Met service.