Now I consider myself relatively fit aside from the small gut from cheeky KFC sessions here and there but the Ben Lomond track up to the summit was no easy task in winter.
At 1,748m elevation (or 1,326m to the saddle) it provides stunning views of Queenstown, New Zealand and the larger Late Wakatipu, weather dependent of course. You don’t need any hardcore specialist gear like ropes, carabiners and swiss army knives but in the winter where the snow is up to waist deep in some sections, you defiantly need at least boots and waterproof clothing to some extent.
It doesn’t seem so hard if it was summer aside from the steepness form the saddle to the summit but in winter this was “maximum effort” as a Deadpool would say. Snow covering the tracks where you ended up off the track without knowing till you fell into waist deep snow, track made dangerous by hidden icy rocks under the snow (having actually fallen once and hitting my head) and crazy ass New Zealand plants that seem to survive the sub 0 temperature that are so sharp they cut me through my gloves and pants and underlayer compressions.
Extreme care is advised coming back down as you could fall on your ass and go into an uncontrolled slide as I did especially coming down from the summit peak which is a bit hair-raising! Being walking poles if you can to make life much easier.
Despite the websites and boards on site saying 5-hour trip, in Winter would allow for 7 hours if you have never done such a hike before in such conditions. Bring plenty of fluid, solid lunch and start as early as you can. As the day goes on the sun starts melting the surface snow and you start having to contend with mud along with the ice and snow as well as increased hiker numbers.
While personally I found it worth my day and recommend to anyone is reasonable fitness to attempt it to at least try how far they can get, It’s not easy. There were plenty of times I wanted to call it and turn back especially after constantly falling into the snow, the cuts and bruises, running out of water, sunburnt lips and hectic blisters.
So why punish yourself on “holiday”? I think this quote from Rocky sums it up nicely:
“Our greatest glory is not in falling, but rising every time we fall”
10/10 would do it again.
Ben Lomond Track
- Allow 4-5 hours in Summer conditions, 7-8 in Winter alpine conditions.
- Easiest to start the track at the Queenstown Skyline Gondola base.
- If you take the Gondola up the mountain you can shed ~1.5 hours off the trip but will set you back $40 NZD.
- Bring walking poles if you can, and of course, appropriate clothing depending on the conditions. It was still -3*C at lunchtime at the Saddle when I got there.