The Northwest ridge of Mt. Fox is a strenuous tramp, generally requiring 8 hours of travel round trip from Thirsty Creek. If you decide to travel further along the ridge above Mt. Fox towards Craig Peak, and overnight trip is advisable.
Routefinding through the forest, especially on the descent, can be difficult as the trail is often patchy and poorly maintained. Fallen trees also add to the routefinding difficulties. Steep, muddy roots and rocks through the forest can make travel diffucult and dangerous. There is no trail on the ridge above Mt. Fox, so be sure to come properly equipped.
The trailhead is located three kilometers south of the Fox Glacier township on Highway 6. There is a small pullout here for parking on the west side of the road, with a DOC trailhead signpost across the road.
Typical trail conditions
The trail starts out winding its way through the temperate rainforest, and quickly deteriorates as it begins the climb up the hillside. Vines hang down from the treetops waiting to ensnare backpacks, and a mass of slippery tree roots covers the majority of the forest floor. Follow the bright orange triangle markers, climbing over, under, or around a number of enormous downed trees that obscure the path. Heavy-laden backpacks are cumbersome burdens to carry through the lower forest section. There is a bit of solid class 3 vegetable scrambling to be overcome in some of the steeper sections. Routefinding on the ascent is quite a bit easier than on the descent, so take note of your surroundings as you travel upwards.
After two to three hours of travel through the forest the trail emerges out into a scruffy bush, giving the first clear views out to the Tasman Sea. There is a small triangulation marker just after the trail exits the forest. From here, follow a series of white poles generally along the crest of the ridge, steadily gaining elevation through a mix of tussock and dense bush. The trail passes a number of small tarns, which supply the only water along the route after the spring snowmelt. This section of the track can be quite muddy. The summit of Mt. Fox is reached around an hour and a half past the point where the trail exits the forest. From here you can look out across the valley to the upper neve of the Fox Glacier, and up at the graceful Mt. Tasman and bulky mass of Mt. Cook. Descent is by the same route – take care to follow the correct path (look for the orange markers) through the forest, as several misleading paths branch off from the main route before gradually fading out.
Route Beyond Mt. Fox, to Craig Peak
From the summit of Mt. Fox, a broad, undulating tussock covered ridge leads up to a final culmination at Craig Peak (1914 m). There is no trail beyond the summit of Mt. Fox, and travel through the tussock is rough and full of surprises. Be sure you have a map, compass, and preferably a GPS if you decide to travel along this ridge, as bad weather and dense fogs can (and likely will) move in quickly as the sunlight hits the coastal mountains.
Head southeast from the summit of Mt. Fox along the ridge, passing a few small tarns within the first kilometer. This is a good area for a campsite – be sure to wake up early for the sunrise before the fog moves in. From here, the route is pretty much your choice, as the broad ridge rises and falls as it continues towards the icy peaks.
Terrain along ridge
At several points you must scramble down through rocky outcroppings that stick out of the tussock-covered hillside. Beware of deep, hidden water channels that weave through the tussock – it may look flat, but there are many invisible holes lurking below. The tussock provides good handholds up some steep sections of the ridge, but can be quite slippery on the descent. Take note of your surroundings, as your descent could be hindered by fog.
After several hours travel reach a high point on the ridge (Point 1637), from which the remainder of the route up Craig Peak is visible. This was my turn around point – any further route information is appreciated!
Descend to the south to avoid sharp cliffs along the ridge crest, and follow the ridge until you reach the shingle slopes immediately below the peak. An ice axe and crampons may be necessary, as ice often lingers into summer on the upper slopes of this ridge. Take care on the descent, especially through the steep sections of tussock before rejoining the poled trail at Mt. Fox.
In addition to standard hiking gear:
Waterproof gear (wet high tussock makes waterproof pants a good idea, even in fine weather)
Extra water - no water is available until tarns near the summit
For travel above Mt. Fox:
Trekking poles (good for searching for trenches in the tussock)
GPS is advisable for routefinding
Ice axe and crampons are generally required for ice on Craig Peak