Mt Princess Overlook
On this trip, we took a three-hour walk from Maling Pass in the St James Conservation Area to a high viewpoint overlooking Mt Princess. We were short on time, but you could climb a little higher for an overlook of the Princess Bath, a beautiful alpine lake – or do an overnight trip and camp there.
The Maling pass in the St James Conservation area is a beautiful pass between the Waiau Toa / Clarence River and Waiau Uwha River. We drove north from Hanmer Springs over the Rainbow Road via Jacks Pass and Tophouse Road and based ourselves at Lake Tennyson for a couple of nights to explore the area. This section of road was in very good condition (December 2021) aside from a bit of a bumpy downhill to the campsite.
The drive to Maling Pass is up a single-lane, very scenic four-wheel-drive track. Read the DoC recommendations regarding vehicles and access – permission is required to access some areas and is restricted by locked gates.
Lake Tennyson (1100m) has a basic and very exposed DoC campsite with a shelter, a couple of toilets and incredible views. Our only neighbours were a couple of local fishermen who within a couple of minutes, offered us a trout for our dinner. We enjoyed a swim and as it was blowing a gale, a relative sandfly-free evening. We were buffeted around in the truck by the strong wind gusts during the night, and were glad we weren’t in the tent!
By the morning the wind had subsided a little and we enjoyed breakfast as the sun rose over the hills. At 9 am we slowly made our way alongside Maling/Princess Stream then up to Maling Pass with incredible views over Lake Tennyson, the Crimea Range, Mt McCabe and Mt Princess. We timed our visit just right, as many of the alpine flowers were in bloom (**edit – except the ones I took a photo of are, a non-native species and considered a pest plant I believe).
It took about twenty minutes to drive up to Maling Pass (1308m) and there is a turning spot at the pass if you don’t want to go all the way down into the Waiau valley. We parked on a small grassy area just before the pass and walked down to overlook the Waiau Uwha River and across to Spenser Mountains.
As we were only going to be a few hours, we just took a day pack with all the necessities. We started walking at 9.30 am crossing a slightly boggy area before following the ridge up to Pt 1572. The track wasn’t marked but we found a fairly well-trodden path.
We made slow progress to marvel at the views. At Pt 1572 we stopped for a quick break, then made our way down to the small saddle. By 10.30 am were crossing a patch of scree when I tripped over my own feet whilst trying to be careful, and cut a flap of skin open on my hand. We wiped it out, patched it up and I carried on whilst trying not to be so careful.
At 11 am we reached the tarns and continued on up the grassy slopes. It was easy to pick a route, and there were great views across Princess Stream to Mt McCabe and Lake Tennyson.
By 11.15 am we reached an overlook at around contour 1660m. Even though the views were spectacular you need to take a different line and climb higher to get a view of the Princess Bath which sits at around 1750m.
We were continuing on our travels that day and promised to come back for a full mission to Princess Bath. It took us about an hour to retrace our steps and get back to the car by 12.30 pm.