–submitted by Matthew Lettington
In order to make the most of our time on the mountain, I organized a trip to the north island that included visits to two mountains. Both mountains are worth visiting individually, but by combining them into one day trip, we were able to save some money on fuel.
Friday evening Jes and Matthew camped out at the Forest Rec site at Klaklakama Lake. Predawn came even worse than it sounded after a poor night’s sleep (I think too much coffee). It was a short drive to the end of Chuckham Road, and we were hiking to Maquilla by 6:15 am. We parked to 800m, so there was a little more than 1000m to the summit.
We ventured off the road and up a ridge to an adjoining route that gains the peak via the south ridge. We moved quickly through the light to moderate bush. There was no boot track to guide us but we had great beta provided by another club member – thanks, Eyrn!
We reached the summit by 9 am after hiking over steep terrain along the crest of the ridge, starting from the south ridge and descending to the saddle. Our five devices measured the highest point at 1825 m (5987 feet), just shy of being a 6000er.
Instead of retracing our steps to reach our vehicle, we decided to take the west ridge down. Initially, we had planned to follow the forested south slopes. However, while descending, I noticed a cut block towards the north. Cut blocks usually indicate the presence of a road, and indeed, upon checking our GPS, we found a road that could lead us back to our vehicle. Although it added a few kilometres to our journey, the terrain was relatively free of bushes and consisted of open meadows and old growth. The road had only a few dry red alders, which posed no obstacle. Ultimately, we reached our car, completing our first 5 hours of the day.
We didn’t waste any time and started our journey to Alston, which was about a 45-minute drive away. We thought it would be a good break in the middle of the day, but we didn’t anticipate feeling like our legs were heavy with cement when we started hiking agian.
Luckily, we spent less time on Alston. We parked at 1100 metres and only needed to hike a short section of road before reaching the cut block. We followed a flagged route and a boot track to reach the alpine area easily. Then, we made our way up to the snow-filled basin located between the peak and the fin, which is a feature to the west of Alston that requires some scrambling.
We climbed up from the basin to reach the saddle between the summit and the fin. Our plan was to get Alston first, which was on my list of peaks to conquer. However, we noticed dark rain clouds gathering around the mountains in the distance. We decided to quickly climb to the summit by following the north ridge over steep hiking terrain. We even considered visiting a nearby feature to check its elevation, but we were confident we had reached the proper summit as we found a summit register and multiple maps marked it as such.
Despite seeing bad weather coming, we were determined to carry on and summit Alston’s fin. We quickly dropped to the saddle and took another 30 minutes to reach the summit of the craggy feature. Although it was relatively easy to summit Alston, the fin offered some exciting scrambling and a few mildly exposed steps. The view of Sutton Peak and other nearby peaks was terrific, but we only stayed briefly because it was raining on the surrounding peaks.
After a fulfilling day of hiking, we swiftly descended to our vehicle. Over the course of 9 hours, we accomplished an elevation gain of 1900 meters and covered 16 kilometers. For those seeking a thrilling adventure in the north island, I highly recommend visiting either Alston or Maquilla peaks. Alston has less challenging terrain and navigation, while Maquilla offers a beautiful ridge to explore.
See the full album of images: https://photos.app.goo.gl/UiRHotvzTuASUjuH8