The Ben Lomond mountain towers above Queenstown, usually hidden in some low hanging cloud. The hike is the most challenging hike in the Queenstown area. Although the Routeburn track is in close proximity, the Ben Lomond is still the big hike directly from Queenstown. It takes roughly 3-4 hours return to Ben Lomond Saddle, 6-8 hr to return to Ben Lomond Summit. I made it to the summit and back within 6 hours.
The demanding climb offers spectacular panoramic views of Lake Wanaka and Queenstown. On clear days Mounts Earnslaw/Pikirakatahi and Aspiring/Tititea can be seen from the summit (1748 metres). That is a towering 710 metres higher than Ireland’s tallest mountain, Carrauntoohil.
The climb takes you through thick forest and along a glacial waterfall and river.
There are two main access points for the climb which are either from the top of the Gondola ($15 return and knocks 2 hours off the hike easily) halfway up Skyline Access Road or from One Mile Creek Road.
Warning: The Ben Lomond track is a full day’s hike for most. It is best to start early in the day. The climb is steep right from the get-go and does not ease off. This was my third time to attempt the summit as previously a storm cloud blew in and blocked our ascent. Take as many breaks as you need and make sure to check the weather in advance. It is disheartening when you hike for 3 hours and then cannot make the summit due to cloud or adverse weather conditions. In winter conditions alpine skills and experience are needed to attempt the summit. The weather can change at any time so be aware and prepared for this.
Be sure to plan your trip well and give yourself enough daylight hours to finish the walk. The section of track from the saddle to the summit is very steep and is not recommended for children under 10 years of age or the elderly. There is only one place to fill up water along the hike and this is where the downhill mountain bike tracks meet with the walking tracks. This is 20 minutes from the Gondola or 2 hours from Queenstown.