Mount Difficulty circular track through Slapjack saddle


Trail photos

Photo ofMount Difficulty circular track through Slapjack saddle Photo ofMount Difficulty circular track through Slapjack saddle Photo ofMount Difficulty circular track through Slapjack saddle


Trail stats

14.81 mi
Elevation gain
4,491 ft
Technical difficulty
Elevation loss
4,491 ft
Max elevation
4,235 ft
Min elevation
921 ft
Trail type
5 hours 38 minutes
March 20, 2024
March 2024
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near Bannockburn, Otago (New Zealand)

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Trail photos

Photo ofMount Difficulty circular track through Slapjack saddle Photo ofMount Difficulty circular track through Slapjack saddle Photo ofMount Difficulty circular track through Slapjack saddle

Itinerary description

This hike goes up Mount Difficulty (1285 m) making a circular loop following official DOC tracks.

The track starts at Felton road, in the vicinity of Cromwell. The last bit of Felton road seems to be private so you have to park before the gate.
For about 1 kilometer after crossing the gate you will be walking along Mora Vineyards. After that you will get to another gate with a sign indicating you need to call a number to request access. In one of the photos you can see this sign but here is also what is written on it:
For access please contact
John or Richard Anderson
034451768 or 034450089

When I parked my car a manager from Mora Vineyards was about to go through the first gate on a 4WD and I asked her if I could go up Mount Difficulty. She said no problem as long as I parked the car outside of the gate. For this reason I thought there was no need to call any of those phone numbers asking for permission but when I came down, this second door was closed and I had to go over it. At that point I wasn't sure if I should have called the number or not.
If I happen to be on those tracks again I will call one of those numbers to request access just to be sure.

A few hundred meters after crossing the gate we will see a signpost from DOC with information for the tracks. This is the spot where the track splits to make a loop. If you take right you go straight up to Mount Difficulty and will get to the summit in about 8 kilometres. If you decide to go straight and make a clockwise loop through Slapjack saddle as we did, it will be about 13 kilometers to get to the top of Mount Difficulty.

We decided to go straight. The track goes up on a gentle slope following a 4WD gravel road all the way to Slapjack saddle. At this point we make a right turn and keep walking up for another 3 kilometers until we get to an unnamed summit. From this summit we can already see the top of Mount Difficulty behind some other unnamed summit that we will have to go around.

From this first summit, after walking for another 4 kilometers, we need to get out of the 4WD gravel road to get to the real Mount Difficulty summit. We make a left and walk off-road for the first time and 150 metes later we are finally at the top of Mount Difficulty. There is a geodetic survey mark indicating the summit. We can see some telecommunications antennas below and nice views all around us.

To go down we head towards the antennas and after a few short meters we are back to the 4WD road and a few steps further we get to the antennas. From here we will follow the 4WD road down.

There is little surprise on the way back. After about 3.5 kilometers there is one last ascent of about 1 kilometer (approx. 100 meters of vertical ascent) to get back to the valley we started the hike.

Once we reach this top we continue down for another 2 kilometers and at this point the DOC sign poles take us off the 4WD road for the first time. You could continue on the 4WD road if you wish because both join again about 1 kilometer below (a bit more if you follow the 4WD road).

Once rejoining the 4WD road we keep going down for another 300 meters to get back to the split point we departed early in the morning. From here is all well known back to the car.

In summary, an easy but long track with no vegetation that can be quite hot and dry in the summer season, so don't forget to bring enough water.

Full description and more pictures at Back from Summit: Mount Difficulty

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PictographWaypoint Altitude 1,032 ft
Photo ofDOC sign post

DOC sign post

PictographWaypoint Altitude 994 ft
Photo ofGate (Permission required)

Gate (Permission required)

PictographWaypoint Altitude 1,107 ft

Joins 4WD track

PictographSummit Altitude 4,233 ft
Photo ofMt Difficulty (1285 m) Photo ofMt Difficulty (1285 m) Photo ofMt Difficulty (1285 m)

Mt Difficulty (1285 m)

PictographWaypoint Altitude 3,751 ft

Other summit

PictographMountain pass Altitude 2,717 ft
Photo ofSlapjack saddle Photo ofSlapjack saddle

Slapjack saddle

PictographCar park Altitude 906 ft
Photo ofStart and end of track (Parking)

Start and end of track (Parking)


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