Finally!!! This one has been on the radar for some time, but as with all tramping, weather, companions and available time has not quite come together. That was until this week.
Mt Oxford was put out as suggestion for our Wednesday tramping group, and with interested from 5 other people it was all beginning to fall into place. On Monday the forecast started to change a bit, indicating there would be some wind picking up during Wednesday and snow to around 500 metres on Tuesday night…..
Wednesday in Ashburton dawned clear and crisp, we left Ashburton at 7.15am heading for Coopers Creek car park and the start of the Mt Oxford track. We turned off State Highway 1 just after Rakaia and headed for Hororata, turning the corner we had Mt Oxford in our sights, complete with a white top that went down below the bush line.
From the car park, we headed straight up the ridge track. The start of this track is through a private bee farm, after about 10 minutes and just past the scout lodge, there is a short sign post directing you to turn left and follow the bush track to Mt Oxford.
The majority of the track goes through beech forest, initially on a gentle gradient and then climbing to the tree line. Nearing the bush edge the snow started to make an appearance, water between the rocks had turned to ice in parts which slowed travel, until there was more snow and less ice.
Finally, reaching the bush line and the long top of Mt Oxford stretched out. Up above was snow covered tussock and an endless sunny blue sky. The snow became heaver without the cover of the bush, in places we were knee deep in the white fluffy stuff. As we crested each knob, the views opened up to the wide Canterbury Plains below all the way to Christchurch and Banks Peninsula in the distance.
As we climbed higher, the cool wind picked up, the forecasted 30 kmph was definitely here. Once we reached the top, we sheltered behind a well-constructed and placed rock wall it provided great protection from the cold crisp breeze and made lunch a much more pleasant experience. Although we did not linger long.
A brief discussion ensued and a plan for the return journey. Rather than taking the marked route down via the Wharfdale Track and Ryde Falls track to Coopers Creek, we took the ridgeline in the other direction. Heading along the ridgeline to point 1235 and then down to Ashley Saddle. From here we followed another ridgeline running parallel to Coopers Creek East Branch, past point 955 and on to point 758 before travelling though mature pine trees and re-joining the Mt Oxford Track just above the scour camp.