The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 10, Issue 6 (September 2, 1935)
Discovery of the Haast Pass
Discovery of the Haast Pass.
(E. T. Robson, photo.)
The Canterbury Museum (founded by Sir Julius von Haast), Christchurch, New Zealand.
Willington's new station in course of construction.
The above illustrations give a good impression of the imposing dimensions of the new railway station at Wellington and of the progress being made with the building operations. The top view shows the main entrance to the station (facing Bunny Street) and the view below shows the Featherston Street elevation and the arrangement of the passenger platforms, The present Lambton Station is shown in the left foreground of the picture,
On January 2 he started from Makarore to find a practicable way; his companions were William Young (Assistant Surveyor for Canterbury, as topographical assistant), R. L. Holmes, F. Warner (later on proprietor of Warner's Hotel), and Charles Haring. The party carried very heavy swags; they took provisions for four weeks. About twenty-five miles from the Lake, following up a tributary of the Makarore through wild country, the travellers came to a place where the level of the swampy open forest had a slight fall to the north. Soon the small waterholes between the swamp moss increased, a watercourse was formed, which was running in a northerly direction. Thus a most remarkable pass was discovered, which has no equal in the whole range of the Southern Alps.
From these observations on this watershed, Haast found that its altitude was only 1,716 feet above sea-level, or 724 feet above the surface of Lake Wanaka. The mountains on both sides rose into great glaciated heights. This is the place now known as the Haast Pass. A horseback track has been made through the forest and ranges following closely the way pioneered by our explorer and his party. Some day it will be roaded for motor traffic and thus form a wonderful highway to the West Coast, linking up with the South Westland main road. An amazingly rugged route of sublime scenery, it is a difficult track to-day; the great snow-fed rivers are the obstacles. We may imagine, therefore, the formidable character of this wilderness of mountains and forests and roaring rivers through which Haast's party, laden heavily, toiled in 1863.
There is a high icy mountain, just on the northern side of the pass, which Haast and Young ascended, in order to use it as a central topographical station and examine it for its geology. Haast named it Mount Brewster. Its glaciers give rise to the main head-waters of the river flowing to the West Coast, which the Maoris called the Awarua in its lower parts.
“From the slopes of this grand mountain, from an altitude of about 6,500 feet,” the explorer wrote, “we had a most magnificent view over the Alps. Lake Wanaka appeared far in the South, its blue mirror-like surface set among wild rugged mountains. All around us rose peak above peak, their rocky pinnacles towering in grand majesty above the snow and ice upon their flanks, while deep below us, in narrow gorges, we could look upon the foaming waters of the torrents almost at our feet.”