The Alex Knob Track takes approximately eight hours return and climbs steadily through a variety of vegetation types with views of Franz Josef Glacier, the Southern Alps and the Tasman Sea. This track is for experienced and well-equipped trampers only.

Location

The trailhead is half way up the Franz Josef Glacier Access Road at the Lake Wombat car park. The track follows a glacial moraine towards Lake Wombat before you come to a clearly marked track junction that will direct you to Alex Knob.

 

The Track

The endless zig zags lead you through podocarp hardwood rainforest to sub alpine tussock past Rata and Christmas Lookouts before reaching the summit ridge. You turn into a small valley, and the ridge levels out on the final stage of your uphill journey. Here, you will pass Louisa’s Peak which was named after Lousia Woodham, Alec’s wife.

From the Alex Knob viewpoint, you will be rewarded for your uphill grind with a bird’s eye view of the Franz Josef Glacier, the Main Divide and Tasman Sea. If you want a photograph of a bluebird cloudless sky it is worth starting early. The clouds tend to accumulate after midday even on a fine day.

Track History

Alexander Graham (Alec) was a famous mountain guide and hotelier in the area, and is the namesake of Alex Knob on the Fritz Range. Louisa’s Peak was named after Louisa Woodham, Alec’s wife. Explorer and surveyor, Gerhard Mueller, named the Fritz Range and called the major peaks after the German generals in the 1870 Franco-German War. Mounts Von Bulow, Bismarck, Roon, Moltke, and Lemmer can all be found along the range on the topographical map.

Alec Graham was one of New Zealand’s most versatile mountaineers. He had the strength and stamina to cart weighty loads and could cut endless steps in the glacial ice. He and his brother Peter were well loved guides and had an unblemished safety record in the mountains.

Alec was born at Three Mile Beach near Okarito in 1881. By the time he was a teenager he had completed a number of incredible journeys across the Southern Alps with Cannon Newton and Dr Ebenezer Teichelmann. He was even part of the team that made the first ascent of Mount Aspiring.

Through the early twentieth century Alec guided many parties up the Alex Knob track and to the Franz Josef Glacier. He also led groups up the Copland, Cook and Arawhata valleys.

In 1911, Alec and his older brother Jim brought the Waiho Hotel ‘Toi Toi House’ from the Batson Family and then moved the building from the Waiho Flats. An additional storey was added and it became the Graham Hotel. Today this is the site of the current Department of Conservation Visitor Centre.

Jim died in 1921, and Alec was joined by his other brother Peter. At the time Peter was the Chief Guide at the Hermitage in Mount Cook Village and he was ready to return to the West Coast. Together they ran the Graham Hotel and guiding business which grew into a world class attraction.

Check the current track conditions and weather forecasts at the Westland Tai Poutini National Park Visitor Centre or www.doc.govt.nz before starting your trip. Always take warm and waterproof clothing as the weather can change rapidly. Carry drinking water, insect repellent and sun protection at all times.

8 hr 17.2 km return via same track Advanced: Tramping track