If you're like us and have a dog and live in Canterbury then you'll appreciate how hard it can be to find new places to explore that are pooch friendly. Now that we've added a baby into the mix, finding appropriate weekend adventures has been somewhat more complex. On a positive note, it's meant we've had to look for and since discovered some really great tracks that had been right under our noses the last few years. Mt Barrosa is one of those little gems. Only 90 mins from the city and an awesome leg work out despite it's relatively short distance, I was surprised how much I enjoyed this track. I would highly recommend it to those with less time on their hands but wanting some decent elevation gains (840m to be exact) for trail running, hiking or serious dog walking.
Just inland from the more well known summit of Mt Somers, Barrosa is a more achievable 1364m and the track begins right off Ashburton Gorge Road making access super easy. There is no toilet here so make sure to stop in Mt Somers village if you're less inclined to answer the call of nature in, ah, nature that is. You will also need to bring your own water as there is nowhere to fill up save for a stream at the beginning which I wouldn't rely on to be safe to drink. I went through a 2 litre bladder on a rather hot day just for reference. DOC puts the trip to the summit at 2.5 hours for 3.5km but I think most groups would be closer to the 2 hour mark if you're used to walking in the hills. This makes it possible to finish the whole trip in a morning then be back in town for Aunty Barbara's Poodle's 2nd Birthday with plenty of time to spare.
nWe packed the baby up into his carrier and set the dog off (under complete control of course) up the start of the track which climbs gently through grassy paddocks for the first 10 minutes. After crossing a small stream a large orange arrow directs you up the spur and off the 4WD track and straight into the climb. The slope is pretty relentless for the whole first hour which if you're a glass is half full kind of character then you'll be happy to get the elevation gain quickly behind you. Conversely, if you're a bit of a negative Nancy then go to your mind palace and try not to think about the quad burn, it'll be over soon. The track is clear and simple to follow if not a bit rough under foot in places. Eventually the gradient eases off and we had a short breather and a snack just passed the 1000m mark so the baby could have a roll around and eat some tussock. The track remains exposed along the ridge most of the way and the high winds made for a slightly more challenging ascent than on a calm day. It also stopped us from taking too many breaks and we finished the second half of the climb in one push.
Towards the top of the mountain, you'll start to notice some pretty looking rocks scattered around the place. Barrosa and the Mt Somers area more generally are well known sites for discovering Agates, a rather novel reminder of their volcanic history. The summit itself was a little anti-climatic with no trig to signal the highest point but instead a rock garden of sorts to take in the expansive views from. Although the track here was easy to follow, a lack of route markings could make this significant;y more challenging in poor weather. You may want to carry a GPS or wait until you get a clear day to avoid wandering down the wrong spur on the return trip.
The wind deterred us from staying too long and we made our way back down fairly quickly. The track is a little harder as you drop down through the steeper sections as the dry dirt and scree make for a slippery path. With a baby carrier to contend with, we took this part quite slowly and as a result were quite a bit longer getting back to the car than we would normally be just the two of us. If you're tossing up whether or not to carry trekking poles I think it's well worth it just for getting up and down that section of the ridge. All in all, we were still relatively quick with the total round trip taking 3 hrs 20 mins including stops.
The little guy was still happy at the end, the dog was shattered so a pretty successful day trip as far as I'm concerned. If you're confident carrying a baby on your back up steep hills then this is a great option but unfortunately I wouldn't try it if you're not 100% confident in your fitness and/or footing. For those of you just rocking a day pack like a normal person then this is a fun little challenge that'll get your heart rate up but not ruin you for the rest of your weekend!
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