Lake Angelus

Nelson Lakes National Park, 2 days

Written by      

Craig Potton

A trip up to the alpine tarn of Lake Angelus, nestled in a glacial basin high above Lakes Rotoroa and Rotoiti, is one of the classic tramps in the Nelson Lakes National Park. This lake, at 1600 m above sea level, can be reached by a number of routes, some more exposed to the elements than others. The Robert Ridge route is the most popular approach to the lake, and justifiably so, but should only be tackled in good weather as the ridge is very exposed for several hours along its length, with no easy escape route if conditions turn nasty. The lake and nearby spacious hut can be visited in an ordinary weekend, although an extra day spent among the rocky tops of the range—possibly including a scramble up Mt Angelus—would be a memorable addition to this tramp.

The high-altitude start at Mt Robert carpark (880 metres), if reached by car, will be appreciated as you zigzag steeply up the Pinchgut Track to a bushline shelter and the 1421-metre-high Mt Robert just above. Any weariness you experience from the climb should drop away as the stunning views unfold all around: down to the left and right, where both Lakes Rotoroa and Rotoiti lie cradled in their forested basins, and across a seemingly endless array of ridges and summits stretching in every direction. Allow one-and-a-half to two hours to reach the rounded top of this peak.

Once this sharp climb is behind you, you can enjoy the gently undulating ridge that leads off to the south. This is the route to Lake Angelus, and although it climbs to over 1800 metres it is nowhere near as steep as the initial haul up from the road. In good visibility this should present no difficulty, as the track is well worn by countless pairs of boots and frequent poles guide the way.

Various high points are encountered along the increasingly shattered ridge. First, you come to Flagtop (1690 m), then you carry on down to a saddle just north of Julius Summit. Speargrass Creek provides an alternative exit back to the valley if necessary. There is a six-bunk hut at Speargrass Flat, reached after a three-hour descent, and from here it is a further two hours to the Mt Robert carpark. The idyllic Lake Angelus and its palatial hut now lie directly below, with only 15 minutes scrambling down a rocky ridge and an easy few minutes across tussock flats to the hut. Angelus Hut has mattresses for 26 trampers, (although this number is often exceeded), a stove (coal usually provided) but no cooking facilities. Be prepared for plenty of international company over the summer months, as this is a popular place for overseas visitors as well as New Zealanders. An extra day spent wandering around this alpine basin should be included if at all possible. In summer, the 2075-metre Mt Angelus can be climbed without any special equipment from Sunset Saddle, offering spectacular views across Nelson Lakes National Park.

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