Mt Fishtail

Mt Fishtail
Mount Richmond Forest Park



Mt Fishtail (1641 m) is a prominent peak at the northeastern end of Mt Richmond Forest Park, in Marlborough. So-named due to its twin summits resembling a fishtail from some perspectives, the mountain provides a physically-challenging overnight tramp via Mt Fishtail Track. Initially a leisurely wander though the beautiful native forest of Pine Valley, the track soon transforms into a grueling climb to Fishtail Hut, which is located a few hundred metres below the summit. Mt Fishtail Track begins in Pine Valley, which is a half-hour drive up Northbank Road from State Highway 6, north of Renwick.

 

 Trail Details
Length:  8.2 km one way to Fishtail Hut Time Required:  4-6 hr one way to Fishtail Hut
Trail Type:  Walking track, and cairn markers above the treeline Uses:  Walking only
Physical Difficulty:  Very Hard    Primary Direction:  Return (up and down)
Start Elevation:  210 m Max Elevation:  1340 m (Fishtail Hut) or 1641 m (Mt Fishtail summit)
Dog Access:  Permit required for Mt Richmond Forest Park; see Renwick or Nelson DOC office
Length:  8.2 km one way to Fishtail Hut
Time Required:  4-6 hr one way to Fishtail Hut
Trail Type:  Walking track, and cairn markers above the treeline
Physical Difficulty:  Very Hard   
Uses:  Walking only
Start Elevation:  210 m
Max Elevation:  1340 m (Fishtail Hut) or 1641 m (Mt Fishtail summit)
Dog Access:  Permit required for Mt Richmond Forest Park; see Renwick or Nelson DOC office
Map Viewer

 Trail Access

Mt Fishtail Track is located on the north bank of the Wairau River, in Wairau Valley. You will need to get onto North Bank Road, which begins immediately north of the Wairau River Bridge on State Highway 6 (5 km north of Renwick). Follow North Bank Road west for 25 km and turn right onto Pine Valley Road; a signpost indicates this is the way to access Mt Fishtail (see Access tab above). Follow Pine Valley Road for 5 km until it ends at a small parking area next to Pine Valley Stream. Begin here along the track that follows the true right of the stream. If you have a 4WD vehicle you can ford the stream and continue along the 4WD track on the true left to Mill Flat campsite (which will take 20 mins off your walking time).

Please see DOC’s Mt Richmond Forest Park access updates to check for road closures before you go.

Mt Fishtail Route is standalone, in that it does not connect to any other tracks.

 

 Trail Description

From Mill Flat campsite the track follows the valley floor alongside the true right of the crystal-clear Pine Valley Stream. The forest on the valley floor is beautiful, with a mix of beech and podocarps, and lots of moss on the forest floor. After 20 min you will pass the location of the old Pine Valley Hut, which burnt down in 2014. The gradient is easy-going for the first 3.2 km, after which point the track crosses the stream and immediately begins climbing steeply up a spur. Here you will gain over 500 m elevation in around 1.6 km (a gradient of around 30%). The track is rocky and rooty amid the silver beech. The gradient eases once you’re on the top of the ridge, and openings in the forest allow glimpses of the southern face of Mt Fishtail.

The tree line is reached at 1300 m, at which point the track emerges into alpine scrub and the hut becomes visible in the distance, perched on a tussocky slope above a rock escarpment. The remaining distance to the hut sidles the western face of Fishtail, across a steep, active scree slope. Be very careful along this section in winter when ice and snow can make the rocks slippery. Fishtail Hut is small and does not have a woodburner for heating.

Return the same way you came.

 

Fishtail Hut
Hut Type:   Standard Hut Capacity:   4
Bookings:   Not required: first in, first served Fee:   1 Standard Hut Ticket
Facilities:   Mattresses only (no heating) Altitude:  1340 m

 

 Mt Fishtail Summit (2 hr return)

There is no official track to the summit. The easiest way is to head up the vegetated area of scree behind the hut. Once you’re at the saddle west of the lower of the two points of the fishtail, it is a straightforward climb along the ridge to the summit at 1641 m. Here you will enjoy spectacular views of the Richmond Ranges, Wairau Valley, and Inland Kaikoura Range.

To get back to the hut, return the same way you came. Be very careful as you descend.

 

 Trail Safety

Be sure to let someone know your intentions before you go, and record your visit in Fishtail Hut book. Mt Fishtail is a highly-exposed alpine route, so proper preparation and care is essential to ensure a safe trip. Being on the southwestern aspect of the mountain, the slope the track crosses receives little sunlight in winter; consequently the track can remain icy all day. Check the alpine weather forecast before you go; do not rely on the weather forecast for the nearest town Blenheim, as the alpine weather in the Richmond Ranges are likely to be very different. Make sure you carry plenty of water with you as there are no water sources beyond the valley floor, and in winter the water tank at Fishtail Hut will likely be frozen.

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