Ever been lost for words when you come to the top of a ridge or summit and see the view? This was one of these moments for me… Lake Angelus.
So where is Lake Angelus? Nelson Lakes National Park, or perhaps better known from its popular starting point of St. Arnaud, on the shores of Lake Rotoiti. This rugged alpine region is well known for its challenging geography and climate, yet is readily accessible by road. Lake Angelus hut has been described as a real gem, and is popular all year round. Caution must be taken as the terrain is not forgiving… There is always a risk of injury or exposure through this National Park. We personally know of two incidents that occurred in summer when the rescue helicopter was required to medvac the casualties, one a broken ankle (Rumour has it it was less than 15 minutes from time of setting off the PLB before the chopper was sighted. Well done Search and Rescue!) and the other a sprained knee (a couple of days forced rest in the hut before help arrived) . And we recently assisted a trail runner who sprained his ankle 50 metres from a hut, but was 3 hours hiking from St. Arnaud. He certainly didn’t have a survival kit to hand, despite it being late autumn and raining.
There are several routes to get here…
It was late spring when we took the Robert Ridge route after an overnight stay at Bushline hut before heading across the tops to get there. We had visited the National Park several times before, but this was the first time circumstances had been in our favour. On the ridgeline, there was a reasonable risk of avalanche or injury as we crossed the last fields of melting snow in the afternoon sun. On more than one occasion, we broke through the crust to the boulders and stones underneath, often resulting in an icy footbath due to the runoff which flowed underneath the snow. We had been warned of this danger by hikers who had experienced slipping and sliding on the frozen ice only a few hours earlier as they came down the ridge. On the patches where we felt particularly nervous due to the slope or angle of the snowfield, we climbed across the bare rockface. We were glad to see that we were not the only ones to treat the route with caution as there were several tracks leading off the snow fields to the rockface, each one appearing to correspond to the amount of thawing that had occurred during the day.
The last of the winter ice was melting on the lake on the afternoon of our arrival, and by dawn, it had finally thawed for the summer. As we hiked out the next morning via the Speargrass Creek route, we could only admire the savage beauty of the untamed tops, and appreciate the view.