One Sunday afternoon I drove my car up Dyers Pass in the Port Hills, turned right into Summit Road at Sign of the Kiwi, passed several Crater Rim peaks, passed Sign of the Bellbird, and parked my car near the southern end of Summit Road overlooking Gibraltar Rock, which I wanted to climb.
2009. Summit Road southern view of Gibraltar Rock, Port Hills, Christchurch. Lake Ellesmere & Canterbury Plains backdrop
An MTB greeted me when he pedalled past. I walked through a gate, where I saw a lamb skeleton, and through a sloping paddock which overlooked Lake Ellesmere to the east, Canterbury Plains to the west and pyramid-shaped Gibraltar Rock in the middle.
On the lower north-facing slope I climbed beside an old stone wall, then scrambled up Gibraltar Rock. At one stage I took off my jandals to get a grip on the rock with my bare feet.
2009. Gibraltar Rock south-east view: Omahu Bush, Lake Ellesmere & Pacific Ocean
2009. Gibraltar Rock south-west view: Canterbury Plains & Southern Alps
On top of Gibraltar Rock I quaffed Schweppes Sparkling Raspberry, while watching cars on Summit Road drive past my car. I admired 360 degree views: South-eastwards I saw snot-green Lake Ellesmere, Kaitorete Spit and blue Pacific. South and westwards across Canterbury Plains I saw the smoke of several fires forming haze on Canterbury Plains, and Southern Alps stretching from Kaikouras in the north to Aoraki Mt Cook in the south.
By Crater Rim I saw Coopers Knobs, Cass Peak, Sugarloaf, The Tors, Lyttelton and the Pacific again. Eastwards below Gibraltar Rock was Omahu Bush, and beyond Crater Rim I saw Mt Herbert on Banks Peninsula. I felt like "The Eagle" in Tennyson's poem:
"Ringed with the azure world, he stands..."
2009. Gibraltar Rock westwards view: Canterbury Plains & Southern Alps
2009. Gibraltar Rock northern view: Crater Rim, Port Hills, Christchurch
On top of Gibraltar Rock a concrete slab had "1993" incised on it, with an erect wooden beam bolted to it with with two loose bits of iron. On the concrete a bronze plaque stated:
THIS CROSS ERECTED
16 APRIL 1993
GIBRALTAR FARM ROYAL FAMILY
B.H. KIM C.W. LEE
Looked like someone had trashed the "cross" with a chainsaw.
2009. Gibraltar Rock 1993 Memorial. South-west Canterbury Plains & Southern Alps backdrop
2009. Gibraltar Rock north-eastwards view: Omahu Bush, Summit Road, Coopers Knobs, Mt Herbert, Mt Bradley
Despite irritating flies on top of Gibraltar Rock, fresh breezes cooled me. On the sunny western slope, I scrambled down broken rock, through bracken, flax, matagouri and bush-lawyer, which scratched my calves. Halfway down, I came across a sheep path which went round to the stone wall on the northern slope again.
2009. Northern Stone Wall below Gibraltar Rock. Omahu Bush, Summit Road, Coopers Knobs, Mt Herbert, Mt Bradley backdrop
2009. Gibraltar Rock seen from below Summit Road, Port Hills, Christchurch
Back at my car, I'd completed Gibraltar Rock climb in an hour. I also wanted to climb the highest Coopers Knob (573m) across Summit Road.
2009. Five-Finger Pseudopanax arboreus, Crater Rim Track, Coopers Knobs, Port Hills, Christchurch
2009. Crater Rim Track south of Coopers Knobs, Port Hills, Christchurch
From Summit Road, I climbed wooden steps and a mown track through open bush, where I passed purple-fruiting five-fingers, Pseudopanax arboreus, bracken, hebes, flax, NZ broom, gorse and a dead rabbit, with flies sucking its eye. Someone had sprayed poison leaving trackside bracken brown and dead - futile as masses of bracken covered hills above Summit Road.
2009. Dead rabbit, Crater Rim Track, Coopers Knobs, Port Hills, Christchurch
2009. Gibraltar Rock seen from Crater Rim Track below Coopers Knobs, Port Hills, Christchurch
I turned right along Crater Rim Walkway, then soon turned left along a grassy path beside a fence towards Coopers Knobs. The path took me along Crater Rim where I passed a windy gap above a precipice between craggy Coopers Knobs, then went around the crag base to the highest Coopers Knob overlooking another gap and precipice.
The well worn path went up an easy rock-hop to the top, making the highest Coopers Knob easier to climb than my Gibraltar Rock climb, which had no paths. The rock was sprinkled with tussock and gorse. The poisoner would've been better informed had he sprayed the gorse.
2009. Crater Rim view over Lyttelton Harbour & Port Hills
2009. Highest Coopers Knob (573m) highest point on Port Hills, Christchurch
2009. Lower Coopers Knob view of Lyttelton Harbour & Banks Peninsula
Coopers Knob had a survey beacon standing in concrete amongst top rocks, with a metal tag:
WARNING: PLEASE KEEP OFF...
IT IS AN OFFENCE TO INTERFERE
WITH THIS STATION
2009. Highest Coopers Knob view of Coopers Knobs & northern Crater Rim, Port Hills, Christchurch
2009. Highest Coopers Knob northern view of Lyttelton Harbour
I sat on top of Coopers Knob enjoying cool breezes and better 360 degree views than those I'd had on Gibraltar Rock below. Dehydrated by the warm afternoon, I finished the rest of my 1,5 litre raspberry drink. On Summit Road near my car, I saw a biker in black leathers looking up at me while I looked at him. Again I felt like Tennyson's Eagle:
"The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls, ..."
I took north, south, east, west coolpix & texted Leah from the top.
2009. Highest Coopers Knob north-eastwards view of Mt Bradley, Banks Peninsula
2009. Highest Coopers Knob south-eastwards view of lower Coopers Knob, Summit Road, Lake Ellesmere & Pacific Ocean
2009. Highest Coopers Knob southern view of Omahu Bush & Gibraltar Rock, Port Hills, Christchurch
2009. Red Admiral Butterfly, Vanessa gonerilla, Coopers Knob, Port Hills, Christchurch
On my way down, I snapped a Red Admiral butterfly, Vanessa gonerilla, on a Coopers Knob rock.
By Crater Rim Walkway again, I stepped into a dark grove of native bush, an excellent windbreak. I watched two blokes prep their hang-glider and step into the void. "And like a thunderbolt he falls." Tennyson again.
I watched an Asian couple pass towards Summit Road.
2009. Hang-glider on Crater Rim by Coopers Knobs, Port Hills, Christchurch
2009. Coopers Knobs seen from Summit Road in the crater near Gebbies Pass
Back at my car, I'd taken an hour to climb Coopers Knob. In the crater, on Summit Road just before Gebbies Pass, I stopped to look at a macrocarpa and pine plantation, and the spectacular skyline view of Coopers Knob I'd climbed. On my drive back to Burnside, I stopped at Taitapu to view Gibraltar Rock and Coopers Knobs from Canterbury Plains.
2009. Taitapu Port Hills view including Gibraltar Rock & Coopers Knobs
Content & pics Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.