I awoke on Day 4 to high cloud – perfect for tackling the Skyline Walk and its three peaks.
I’ve wanted to do the Skyline Walk for ages, but was worried that I didn’t have the required fitness. While it’s only 11km long, the Wellington City Council website labels it strenuous. Additionally, since I was using public transport for access, I’d have to add on an extra kilometre on either end. But I figured it was perfect weather (high cloud blocking out sun, but not views, with light winds), I could take it at my own pace, and there were always plenty of places to leave the trail and head home.
I was still a bit nervous.
I needn’t have been. For much of the walk, I actually thought to myself ‘this isn’t strenuous, what are they talking about’? Then I got to the last climb before Mt Kaukau. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I decided to do the walk from Makara Saddle to Old Coach Road, reasoning that this had slightly less of an overall climb. The bus only goes to the end of Karori Road, so my walk started with an uphill climb to the start of the trail.
The trail starts out through pine forest, with gentle ups and downs. The views are amazing almost from the very beginning, over to the wind farm on the south coast and even to the South Island. I was actually a little giddy for the first half of the walk, with the views and the perfect weather and all the friendly people on the trail.
Once you get to Johnston Hill, the views are truly mind-blowing. Slightly off the main path, this 360m peak offers the best views I’ve ever seen of Wellington and I cannot recommend climbing it enough.
It’s at this point I started to wish I’d brought my DSLR along, rather than just relying on my camera phone. (There’s also a safety aspect – shouldn’t really be running down my camera battery talking photos.)
From Johnston Hill I could see all of the other peaks I need to conquer on my list – the hills on the Southern Walkway looked pitifully small from the top, while Makara Peak loomed to the south, yet to be tackled. I could have drank in the view all day, except I knew I had many more kilometres to walk, so I pushed on.
For most of the walk, I could see Mt Kaukau, the final peak on walk, looming in the distance like Mt Doom.
The Crow’s Nest
I’m fairly sure I found the Crow’s Nest. As far as I can tell, it doesn’t have a Survey Mark or trig tower like the other peaks, so I just had to be satisfied with the largest peak I could find in roughly the right place.
The walk from Johnston Hill to the Crow’s Nest was over rolling farm land, often not on the ridgeline itself, but slightly to the west. There were brilliant views of the wind farm and coast, and without a view of Wellington, I felt like I was walking miles away from town.
I wandered up quite a few hills before I got to what I realised must be the Crow’s Nest, a small ridgeline sticking out from the South Walkway that offers (of course) ridiculous views of Wellington.
Seriously good views.
The walk from the Crow’s Nest to Mt Kaukau didn’t seem that far. A sign said it was about 45 minutes and it didn’t look that far. The transmitter tower seemed really close. Really, I asked myself, why did they label this track strenuous?
The cloud cover had cleared and even with a breeze it was getting hot. Also the wind meant my hat keep coming off, so the sun was beating directly on my head. The path went up, the path went down. I begin to tire. And the last hill up to Mt Kaukau itself was a killer. I wasn’t even happy I made it, I just wanted to sit down.
But make it I did!
There were quite a view people on the lookout, but no one at the trig itself, which I found a bit odd. It has fantastic views looking out over west. I didn’t mind though – it meant I could sit down and wring the sweat out of the back of my top without anyone seeing!
I considered going down the South Ridge Track to Simla Train Station, but decided I’d gone this far on the Skyline Walkway, I wanted to do the whole thing. Also, the track down to Simla is steep, while the Skyline has a more gentle gradient, even if it is longer.
There’s been work down on this track since I did it a couple of years back, with smaller tracks carved into the surrounding vegetation that provided welcome relief from the sun.
I’ll be honest – for about half an hour after Mt Kaukau I was thoroughly over it. My ankles and feet bones were killing me. But as the track meandered into Johnsonville, the sense of accomplishment was great. I’d finally done the Skyline Walkway, in five and half hours, all in one go.