A sunrise hike on Isthmus Peak

My alarm went off at 3.30. Contrary to my own expectations I was wide awake in an instant. The excitement of the sunrise mission to come was had me going already.

I had been planning this sunrise hike for a month or so now, waiting for the right gap in work loads and friends schedules, as well as the weather (although we encountered a lot more snow than we anticipated). There had been a fresh layer of snow down to 500m and the night had been clear – it was still cold and crisp under-foot, so no snow melt and icy conditions just yet.

We drove out to the neck in between Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka, found the start of the track (with a degree of difficulty) and pushed hard up to the shoulder before sunrise. And what a sunrise it was…

The sunrise over Lake Hawea from Isthmus Peak

The sunrise over Lake Hawea from Isthmus Peak


This adventure was originally planned as a shoot for 360queenstown-wanaka (such an amazing job I have), with the goal of creating a new virtual tour and location page on the site. As a bi-product I put together this blog post on 360qw with a very cool before-after slider functionality.

I love doing these sunrise hikes. When you’re ascending in the dark you focus 99% on the track directly in front of you, while keeping moving and staying warm. The journey down however presents a whole new set of views that you didn’t notice, or just couldn’t see, on the journey up. I find it almost the reverse of daytime hikes. Plus the pre-sunrise darkness adds an element of spookiness and you get to enjoy views like these…

Lake Hawea looking stunning

Lake Hawea looking stunning

Isthmus Peak - Lord of the rings style pose

Hayley thinks she’s Legolas in the mountains of Middle Earth

isthmus peak snowy boot pack

The snowy boot pack in the top half of the hike

isthmus peak view over lake hawea

Tom taking in the views we missed on the way up