16th July 2014 - Mount Grey
Mount Grey is one of a chain of hills stretching across Northern Canterbury from the high ranges of the Southern Alps towards the sea. They never quite get there, and Mount Grey is the last of the chain, but it provides spectacular views southwards over the plain to Christchurch, and on a clear day, beyond. The snow capped peaks of the Alps are easily visible, but quite distant.
Climbing Mount Grey is rewarding, as the views become more and more frequent and stunning the higher you get. The ascent starts at Lake Janet, which itself is reached by driving west from Amberley along a dirt road. Lake Janet isn't signposted, and isn't visible from the road. It's just a place where the road widens and a pair of green poles announce that there used to be a sign for something. parking is limited, but then so is the traffic. Lake Janet is really a small, green pond with a few picnic tables and a bush toilet. The track starts the the left of the lake and is marked, occasionally, by orange arrows.
The track is quite steep to start with, and pushes rapidly up through pines. It then flattens out and makes its way up the front of the mountain in long zig-zags, breaking out of the forest into scrub land where the track is hemmed in by broom, though not so high that you can't see over it.
Eventually you come to a forestry watch tower. The tower has a balcony around its base, and from this you get what might be the best view in North Canterbury. The view is a clear 180 degrees from the Southern Alps across to Mount Hutt, then Christchurch and the Port Hills, and finally sweeping up the coast to Amberley and even to the hills of Waipara beyond. Amazing. It was a cold and sunny day, so the views were great.
The tower was the hight of our ambition (800m), so after enjoying the view for a while we headed back down the forestry road that winds down the hill behind the tower. This is a longer route, but much faster. We passed through areas of beech forest, the trees black trunked. They are colonised by the beech scale insect which feeds on the sap and produces honeydew as a by product which it exudes down a hair like protrusion. A close examination of the tree will show thousands of these hairs and tiny drops of liquid at the end of each. The drops contain a lot of sugar, and are popular with many native birds and, unfortunately, immigrant wasps which swarm these forests in summer.
This was a good walk, and if we'd started earlier in the day we might have gone on the to actual summit which is a mile or so further up the track and 933m above sea level. Some other time...