Faust is a mountain that sits on the border of Lewis Pass Scenic Reserve and Lake Sumner Conservation Area. It can be seen from Boyle Village where you begin the St James Walkway, the prominent mountain that you find yourself walking around at the start of the St James Walkway. Although it is a steep climb to the summit, the tops travel is stunning. Sitting down, relaxing by the tarns and recovering from the climb whilst looking out over Magdalen valley makes the hard the climb worthwhile. There are a number of great campsite spots in amongst the many tarns situated on Faust making it an ideal spot to escape for an alpine overnight trip.


8.5 hours


17 km


1324 m



Looking towards the summit of Faust from 1633

In Detail

Although there is a route marked on New Zealand Topo50 maps, this route only partially exists. From the base of Faust where Boyle Village Outdoor Education Centre has their high ropes course until just out of the bush line there is a marked route that exists. Beyond this point, it’s up to you to find your own way navigating the ridges to the summit. Along our trip we did our best to follow the marked route, expecting to eventually pick up the trail. Along the tops, it was easy enough to follow the ridge but there was never any route to follow along the way. There was one point when we entered the bush that we found ourselves almost lost. Eventually, we picked up a rough route through the bush back to the St James Walkway.

Richard walking around one of the many tarns, retracing footsteps back towards pt1607

Getting There

Getting to the start of the track is pretty straightforward. From Christchurch follow State Highway One towards Kaikoura. Take a left on the major turn-off to State High Way Seven, towards Hamner Springs and follow the road. When you approach Boyle Village you should see a large signpost for the St James Walkway. This turn-off should take you onto Magdalen Valley Road. Park up just outside the campground. Make sure that you don’t leave any valuables in your car when you head off. Both ends of the St James Walkway are infamous for cars being broken into.


The route to the summit from Faust is reasonably straightforward. Finding the way back down from the summit, however, is quite a different story. The track starts from the Boyle River Outdoor Education Centre’s high ropes course in among the trees. It follows a steep track through the trees and up onto the tops. After further climbing, you reach a well-defined ridge with a number of tarns. It’s reasonably easy to follow the ridgeline towards the summit of Faust from this point onwards. If you find yourself stuck along the tops in low visibility conditions I would highly recommend returning the way you came from. From the summit descend the south-eastern ridge of Faust and do your best to negotiate pt1607 on the hike down following the ridge down to the bushline. From this point onwards either try your best to follow the route marked below down or bush bash.

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Locating the start

Navigating to the start of the track proved a challenge. We began following the highway on a horse track across to a trig station shown on the map where the marked route began. We found a number of off cuts from old road markers with a piece of reflective tape marked on it along the way. When walking this part of the route using a map and compass (if necessary) beeline it straight for the forest in the distance where the high ropes course is located. On entry to the forest, there is a weathered sign with Mt Faust Loop Track carved and painted into it. It’s tucked away in the bush a little but it’s the first good indicator that you’re on the way to the summit.

Top: Looking towards the forest where Boyle River Outdoor Education Center’s high ropes course lies
Bottom: The first of two signs showing us that we were on track

Forest Climb

Crossing through the high ropes course there is a route that can be seen to your left as you walk into the forest. Shortly as you start walking you should come across a number of red metal pieces of metal nailed to the tree. This is what we followed right the way to the edge of the bush line. Some were painted red whilst others were pieces of metal with Toyota Corolla printed on them, bent and nailed to the trees along the route we followed. I was continually surprised by how well cleared the track was for how little documentation I was able to find on the track.

Top: Looking back down the trail shortly after we ascended above the high ropes course at the bottom of the hill
An example of one of the many markers we found on the way up through the bush to Faust
Bottom: Richard taking a layer off as we began working up a sweat as we ascended

Wildlife among the bush

As we climbed there were a couple of points that we were able to see out over Boyle Village and State Highway Seven back towards Hanmer Springs. There’s a sense of accomplishment looking back over how high you have climbed. Among the branches, you could spot and hear Bellbirds singing among the trees. It’s comforting to hear bird song among the trees where you might not quite expect it. There was one part of the route obstructed by treefall along our ascent. Apart from this the track right the way through to the tops was clearly marked and easy to follow

Top Left: A cheeky wee bellbird that was willing to pose for us in the tree
Top Right: We were able to hear a couple of these bellbirds throughout our time in the bush
Bottom: Richard negotiating some of the branches around the

Towards the end of the bush line, the track finally starts to level off a little more. The tough climb becomes easier going. There are a couple of spacious parts in the track that make for a good spot to sit down and rest. Especially if you are a part of a much larger group, taking the time to drink and eat can be important.

Top: The typical track conditions of the hike, a white marker can be seen in the corner of this image marking the route we followed
Bottom: Climbing through the bush was tough at times but steady

Old Mans Beard and the Edge of the Bush line

You can tell when you are nearing the bush line as the trees around the area change. The trees start to disperse and Old Man’s Beard begins to hang from the trees. It’s a beautiful setting and an encouraging site when your legs begin to groan. Fortunately, when you reach the edge of the bushline there is a water refill station placed inside the bush line. I wouldn’t recommend drinking the water from the tank unless you are able to treat it beforehand. Richard who came out with me started suffering some stomach pains on the way down Faust towards the St James Walkway which he felt could quite possibly have been linked to drinking the water from the tanks.

Top: As we neared the edge of the bushline Old Man’s Beard became far more prominent
Middle Left: Richard filling up his water bottle from a small water tank fed from rain water
Middle Right: The rig that collected the rain water from just under the eves of the forest and stored it in tanks
Bottom: The matching Mt Faust Loop Track sign we found as we exited the bush

Tops Travel

Reaching the alpine tussock is a rewarding achievement after slogging through the forest for so long. Finally, you are able to get some views out over towards the mountain ranges in the area. The first part of the tops walk is marked across to just before the tarns. Poles of steel marked with white painted wood were stuck into the ground following a non-existent track. We found it easiest sticking to the ridgeline on the ascent towards the tarns.


The first tarns that you come across are some of the best on the hike. They are the most accessible and probably share some of the best views out of all the tarns on the hike. It was here that we made the choice to take a break and eat lunch. It’s not the halfway point of the hike but it’s easily a lunch spot hard to beat. The water from the tarns is much more likely to be safer and cleaner to drink than the water from the rainwater station at the edge of the bushline.

Faust Summit Push

The route to the summit is unmarked but pretty easy to follow. The other side of the ridge is a steep eroded side that leads right the way down to the road and into the valleys. If you have a fear of heights, it’s a better idea to stick slightly towards the south-eastern fringes of the mountain (where the tarns are). This can especially be nervewracking when the winds are strong along the tops.

Top: Another group that passed us while we were sitting down for lunch
Middle: Richard following the ridge, the tarn we sat down for lunch can be seen to the left in the distance
Bottom: Looking back out over Lewis Pass Scenic Reserve, looking up the Nina Valley

The summit can be a little hard to work out exactly where it lies from a distance. Differentiating Mephistopheles from Faust confused me for a while during our ascent. If you remember that Faust is the closer of the two and you don’t have to walk as far as you’ll hopefully be alright. The final push towards the summit was a wide barren slope leading to a flattish summit. The stake shown below has an F engraved into it on top of the summit. It’s an achievement with a beautiful view. Although it can be windy we found that ducking down the ridge just a little allowed us to keep sheltered from being too exposed.

Top: Richard on the saddle between pt1633 and Faust
Middle: Richard making his way up towards the summit of Faust
The summit was marked with a steel pole stuck into the ground at the summit

Following the map

Where the maps route goes astray and your left to start picking your own route is from the summit of Faust. As the topo50 maps suggest, there is a marked route from the summit that goes across to point pt1712 and pt1661. It then heads down a ridge and joins up with two tarns at the bottom of a basin before heading back towards the south-eastern ridge of Faust. We quickly found that this route did not exist in any shape or form but without despair attempted to trace the route as best possible. The snow slabs that still hadn’t melted made up for not being able to make out the route for at the start.

Top: Richard sitting contemplating our decision to follow the map
Bottom: Looking back on the snowcap around the peaks

It was a difficult task differentiating one marked point from another. In the end, we found what we best thought was the ridge to descend marked on the map and ensured that we made it down to the distinctive two tarns at the bottom in the basin below. Whether this route ensured that we didn’t get bluffed out I am still not sure. It did seem to be a reasonable descent down. We did find that this intruded on what seemed like a roosting seagull which was very territorial. Whilst capturing the photo looking across the tarn, multiple times that same seagull swooped down on me. Probably not the best idea to spend too long in this area.

Top Left: Richard descending down the chute
Top Right: Looking across towards the terrain between pt1627 & pt1465
Bottom: Richard making his way around one of the two tarns

Return to South-Western Ridge of Faust

From the tarn, there’s a clear landmark to aim for which gets you onto the south-eastern ridge of Faust. The landmark is a sharp dip in the ridge. It’s a great spot to take a rest, grab some water and food before proceeding down the ridge. Walking across this terrain isn’t the easiest being so rugged and unformed. It’s hard on your feet crossing the slope.

The point on the south-eastern ridge of Faust in which we were aiming for

Descending the ridge

The ridge down from Faust is pretty distinct at the start. A lot of rock and tussock makes for quite a clear route to follow. Along the ridge, there are obvious markings that show there have been tracks following the ridge down to the bush. The rock fades into tussocks which fades into smaller shrubs the further you descend.

The ridge slowly morphs from rocky outcrops into tussock, to a mixture of tussock, scrub and moss. It’s a good feeling being able to see the progress you’ve made while walking. As you get closer to the forest there are visible tracks which lead down to the true left of the bushline on a steep descent. It’s the most logical way to continue on into the transitioning terrain.

Route finding in the forest

Route finding through the forest was not the easiest task by any chance. Often the route we were trying to follow was overgrown and there were no markers to follow along the route. At the start of the route managed to stumble across a red piece of metal attached to a stake. Later on, we spotted a bent piece of metal nailed to a tree. Apart from these discoveries of markers, we ended up trying our best to pick the route most warn. As long as it kept us in the direction of going down towards the river and it was easy we were happy.

Top: A well-formed track near the start of the bushline that we followed
Bottom: A lone marker that we found on the way

Parts of the track would disappear for short periods before reappearing shortly after. Often it would be a matter of keeping an eye on your feet, trying to make out whether the overgrown shrubs were just covering the route we were trying to follow. Other times when we were making our way down it was clear. It had either once been a track and the markers were removed or a track where markers had still not been erected.

Top: Some pretty standard scenes with fallen branches shrubs and no sign a track near the top
Middle Left:
Bashing through the bush, Richard can just be seen in the centre of the image as a grey sliver
Middle Right:
One of the few red markers we were able to see nailed to the tree in amongst a sea of bush
Richard weaving his way between the low shrubs as we continued to pick our route down

Closing in on the St James Walkway and Boyle River

The descent flattens off to quite an easy gradient near the very bottom of the walk. We found that by keeping the stream and valley to our right throughout the descent ensured that we kept on track trying not to veer too far-right from the ridge. Once again we were lucky enough to come across another bellbird on our way back down. Always comforting seeing the native wildlife around you in the area.

Top: Looking through the trees to the blue skies above
Middle Left: Another bellbird we managed to catch whilst on the descent back down
Middle Right: The track was so well cut in places it was hard not to be convinced we weren’t following something
Bottom: Richard getting his pack on as we close in on the St James Walkway, an orange trapline marker can be seen to the right

Finally after crossing a creek back and forth then bush bashing the last part of the track we came out right on the St James Walkway. There is no sign explicitly stating that there is a route to the summit of Faust. No clear cut route at all. We did see as pictured below an orange marker that was pointing in an offset direction into the bush. Although it could an offset marker part of the St James Walkway it’s handy to trigger if you were ever to try ascending via this route.

The lone marker pointing into the bush with no track going anywhere

St James Walkway

The St James Walkway felt like a highway to walk on after negotiating the ups and downs of Faust and the unmarked routes. Not to forget the times when there was no route to follow. It’s a huge relief to know that you are back on track after spending so much time of the descent not following any track at all yet navigating on what you hope is the right route. A key milestone of the St James Walkway is the swing-bridge over the Boyle River. It’s marked on the map correctly and gives you a good idea of how far you’ve got to go before reaching the car.

Top: The evening light filtering through the forest as Richard walks on out of the forest
Middle Left:
Richard walking along the swingbridge across the Boyle River
Middle Right:
The classic backcountry swingbridge with a max load of one person
Richard crossing a stile shortly before reaching the road back to Boyle River Campsite

There’s a point towards the end of the walkway where the track diverges to a road. You can continue along the track if you like or follow the metal road. Both Richard and I were pretty knackered from the walk and vowed to take the road to speed up the final part of the journey and give our legs a break from the terrain. The road takes you right the way out to SH7. The campground where we parked comes off the road just before Boyle River Outdoor Education Centre.

Walking back along the road was probably one of the longest kilometers of the trip