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Mathias River


The upper reaches of the three main branches of the Mathias River drain the Main Divide, but they are rarely visited by climbing parties despite the variety of peaks with easy to moderate routes. The Divide summits are not particularly high but provide good objectives nonetheless, and access is generally straightforward once the Mathias River itself has been reached. The head of the North Mathias River was the scene of an energetic effort to tick the numerous unclimbed peaks in the area in the summer of 1930. In an undertaking led by Roger Chester and including John Pascoe and Allan Willis, eleven summits along the Divide were climbed in a single day; Chester then went on to climb a further four unclimbed peaks in the Agassiz Range in a single push two days later. Dismissed at the time as peak bagging, a later flippant comment suggested Chester was forced to complete the 11-peak traverse because he couldn’t find any other way down; there is certainly potential for a number of original ascents from the Mathias River and its tributaries.
The lower reaches of the river flow between the smaller peaks and tramping country of the Ragged and Rolleston Ranges before merging with the Rakaia River. The Rolleston Range contains many little-known peaks, the most commonly visited being Mt Williams (at 2300 metres the highest peak in the area) and Turret Peak at the southern end. The Ragged Range comprises numerous rocky peaks linked by broad ridges and scree slopes and makes good tramping and ski touring country.

POINT (171.201668 -43.231196)
BW19 540 119

Mathias River access
The Mathias River is rather isolated, being reached by crossing either the Wilberforce or the Rakaia River. For the Rakaia approach, ask permission from Manuka Point Station (phone Don Patterson, 03 318 5878). Follow Blackford Road, which becomes Double Hill Run Road, taking the turn-off to Manuka Point about 2 km before Glenfalloch Stream is reached. Find a suitable crossing of the Rakaia River and pick up the 4WD track to Manuka Point Station, where intentions should be left. A 4WD track continues to the Mathias River and it is possible to drive as far as the confluence of the North and West branches. A less commonly used alternative reaches the Mathias River via a crossing of the Wilberforce River. Ring Algidus Station (phone Malcolm Taylor, 03 318 5846 or 021 318 584) for permission and take the Lake Coleridge road all the way to the Wilberforce River. Pick the best crossing and continue along a 4WD track on the true left of the Mathias River.
Travel on foot up the Mathias Valley is generally straightforward, usually following the true right of the river to the confluence of the North and West branches.
Mathias Hut (NZDA): A tidy six-bunk hut. Shown, but not named, on map sheets J34 and BW19, it is located on the true left of the Mathias River opposite Moraine Creek.
Centennial Cabin, Manuka Point Station (private)
West Mathias Bivvy (DOC): This hut, shown but not named on map sheets J34 and BW19, is a tidy two-bunk bivvy situated on the north bank of the South Mathias River at its confluence with the West
Mathias. The walk-wire outside the hut across the South Mathias River has been destroyed and (as of 2010) not replaced.
Canyon Creek Hut (DOC): A basic two-bunk bivvy opposite Canyon Creek, at the scrub edge on the true left of the North Mathias, on the north side of the spur. Its position is shown incorrectly on BW19.
Moraine Hut, Algidus Station (private)
Unnamed hut at the mouth of Mistake Creek, Algidus Station (private)

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Yvonne Cook and Geoff Spearpoint,
in association with the Canterbury Mountaineering Club