Lake Ida

Lake Ida

Lake Ida is a small lake near Lake Coleridge in Canterbury’s high country. It’s a beautiful short walk away along the Ryton Track to reach this high country. It’s smaller brother, Little Lake Ida sits right along side Lake Ida and is also a great spot for both fishing in the summer months and skating during the winter months. In this post it’s smaller brother Little Lake Ida is also covered in depth in this post, also known for freezing over in the winter months. Due to the small amount of light that these lakes receive on a clear day, shaded from the surrounding mountains makes them positively hopeful options for finding thick enough ice to skate on. Lake Ida is also a perfect grounds for good fly fishing during the summer months with both Rainbow Trout and Brown Trout present in the lake.

Looking across to the old Lake Ida skate club house that now sits derelict. A man made causeway separates the main lake from a smaller lake made for Ice Hockey & smaller ones

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In Detail

Due to the unpredictability of the ice, it’s often difficult to determine before reaching the lake whether the ice is potentially thick enough to skate on. It’s certainly can be just a tad bit heartbreaking to reach the lake and find that there is no layer of ice or it’s just too thin and fragile. It’s essential that if you have never skated on a frozen lake before that you go with someone with previous experience of skating on frozen lakes. At the very least you’ll need a rope and a life jacket to help someone out of the hole that they have dug themselves. Before skating on the ice it’s important to make some measure of how thick the ice is before you end up skating on it. Using a drill or a measuring tape it’s possible to determine how safe the ice is.

Matt taking his first few slides out along the ice as he skates on Little Lake Ida

Getting to the Lake Ida via the Ryton Track

The Ryton Track follows around the base of Little Mount Ida to eventually reach Lake Ida. It begins from a small car park situated between Lake Selfe and Lake Evelyn that follows the base of Little Mount Ida around to Lake Ida. The track, although rough looking is well cut and cleared making it relatively easy to follow. Starting with a small climb up and around the hill it soon tails off and continues on following a variety of flora right the way through to the lake. You’ll find yourself along a gentle descent down to the lake from the furtherest eastern point of Little Mount Ida onwards.

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Ryton Track

Ryton Track is a small hidden track near Lake Coleridge that is shown as an unnamed walking track on the topographical map. The Department of Conservation website doesn’t list it as a track yet making it quite a hidden destination well off the beaten track. The track follows the base of Little Mount Ida around to Lake Ida, a lake well known for fishing and known among outdoor ice skating enthusiasts for being a reliable spot for finding quality ice in the right winter conditions. The hike is easy and achievable for a family. Potentially a great picnic hike for young ones. In this post, only the track as far as Lake Ida is covered, however, the track continues on to Lake Catherine.

Top Left: Fred followed by Matt making there way around Little Mount Ida en route to
Top Right:
Walking along the old car park that was used for big groups and the masses that once came to Lake Ida for an ice skating session during the winter season.
Bottom Left:
Fred making strides out towards the frozen lake with joy after we found the lake looking solidly frozen from a distance
Bottom Right:
Looking out towards Mount Olympus whilst the sun sets over the mountain ranges

Lake Ida Weather

If you’re planning to head in for an Ice Skating session you’ll want to ensure there have been a number of cold days leading up to when you plan to skate, coupled with a cold frost in the area to ensure the conditions are right for skating. It can be difficult to predict when ice will form on the lake and what conditions. Hence every time you head out for a skating session out on the lake it can be a bit of a gamble whether you will be able to skate. The more experience you have from heading out the more educated your predictions become. The best place to keep up with the lake conditions are on Aardwolfs Natural Ice Reports. Reports have been kept up to date by the community of Ice Skating enthusiasts that enjoy skating on the naturally frozen lakes.

Lake Ida

Lake Ida is the bigger of two lakes that you will first reach after completing the Ryton Track. Remnants of features around the lake constructed to help people skate out on the ice remain intact. Leaning posts for putting your skates on along with a hand rail to help you down onto the ice. The ice is rather “vocal” whilst you skate across it. As a skater becomes more experienced it’s easier to listen and get a feel for which parts of the ice are best to skate on by listening to the different sounds.

Clockwise from Top Left
Matt taking a moment to admire his surroundings whilst skating on the ice,
Introducing a few others to the edge of the ice at Lake Ida
The clarity of the ice was incredibly transparent in many places you could see right to the bottom
Karl and his Mrs making the most of the ice playing a little bit of hockey with a puck on the ice

The Abandoned Clubhouse

Still to this day stands the old Lake Ida Winter Sports Association Clubhouse which has since been abandoned. Situated on Ryton Station Land back in 2001 (now known as Lower Glenthorne Station). According to an article on New Zealand’s Herald the station began issuing trespassing notices to those wishing to skate on the lake during the winter months. Since then the lodge has been left to rack & ruin. Fortunately now there is a public easement through the Ryton Track which allows you to reach Lake Ida and Little Lake Ida.

Clockwise from Top Left
The admission fees that were charged for anybody that wanted to park up there car and skate on Lake Ida
An old painted road sign to let drivers know that the roads were slippery
A seat now made table with some old markings made on the re-purposed cable reel
Four seats that were once used to push children and those unable to skate around the lake sitting in a circle around the table discarded

Vehicle Access

Still there is no vehicle access along the road leading into Lake Ida blocked by a locked gate at the start of Glenthorne Station. According to the Glenthorne Station Public Access page:“People with disabilities or who are otherwise unable to walk the track may be permitted vehicle access to Lakes Ida and Catherine (Monck) but should must contact the Station Manager to book a key prior to arrival and report to the Manager’s House at Upper Glenthorne. In these cases, payment of $20.00 per vehicle is required for use of the tracks as a contribution towards the maintenance. Such access does not confer a right to use any other farm tracks on the property.”

Track between Lake Ida & Little Lake Ida

A faint track exists between Lake Ida and Little Lake Ida. This begins with crossing the causeway between Lake Ida and the smaller pond next to the lake pictured in the cover photo. There is a few fallen logs that you’ll need to negotiate to make it around to the start of the track. Following the northern edge of the lake a trail can be followed winding in and out of the bush. In places trees . Eventually you’ll up at the western edge of the lake if you follow the track correctly.

Top: Trying to negotiate a large fallen log at the start of the track was a difficult task, without getting your feet wet was the goal!
Middle Left: Looking along the frosted track not so long after midday. Still much of the ground where the sun couldn’t reach would stay frozen completely solid
Middle Right: Matt breaking out of the tree line carrying one of the many hockey sticks that were brung out on the trip
Looking back across Lake Ida as the reflections as western parts of the lake where the sun manages to reach melt the thin layer of ice that has managed to frost over

Little Lake Ida

Skating on Little Lake Ida is usually the most reliable source of ice. With a smaller surface area of the lake allows it to freeze over without requiring such low temperatures to obtain the same thickness. Formation of the lake reaching right up to the hill with the water level lapping right up to the edge of the mountain make it incredibly easy to put your skates on whilst still sitting out on your backpack or bum padding of choice.

Top: Looking out over towards the frozen Little Lake Ida getting our first sneak peaks at what the ice could be like.
Bottom: Looking out over a frozen Lake Ida whilst Fred Van Slooten, tests the ice to see if Little Lake Ida is indeed skate-able.

Little Lake Ida is also the furtherest lake to reach of all the lakes around. It takes approximately half an hour from Lake Ida to reach Little Lake Ida in and amongst the scrambling through the scrub and breaking branches. Although the lake may be a bit smaller depending on the conditions you will likely have even more space to skate out on this lake compared to Lake Ida itself. The return journey back to the car is usually via the same track, however, if you were feeling adventurous it would be possible to short-cut and bush bash back to the car from Little Lake Ida.

Clockwise from Top Left:
Looking across to Lake Ida from the higher while we continue to skate across
A puck sitting back on the ice whilst Karl and his Mrs skate the lake.
Nathan (the Author) getting his skate on across the lake for a photo to prove his ability
Matt skating across some untamed ice in the distance of Little Lake Ida.

Helpful Information

If you’re after a pair of Ice Skates to head out to the ice on be sure to get in contact with Stewart’s Gully Services who have Ice Skates in range of different sizes that you. In case you aren’t someone with much experience on natural ice, or if it is your first time heading out on the ice there are a number of posts around the internet that are well worth reading before you head out. If you read any of these articles, read Aardwolfs Ice Report Natural Ice Skating Safety Post. Another couple of posts that I’ve collated: Take Them Outside – Some must read tips before ice skating outside on that frozen lake! and The Clymb – Eight Safety Tips for Playing On Frozen Lakes.

Top: Looking across the ice after we had carved up some nice tracks and made a few wee cracks around the thinner parts of the lakes that weren’t quite as strong
Matt admiring the scenes while coming to a halt on the ice. It’s always better to be moving when your skating on thin ice though

A Special Thank you

A very special thank you is owed to Fred Van Slooten and his son (and my friend since kindergarten) Karl Van Slooten for taking both Matt Brunt and I out for a skating session. Without the wealth of knowledge that Fred has from many years of coming out to Lake Ida for skating sessions neither of us would have been able to have this opportunity. It’s incredibly important that if you’re thinking of heading out to the lakes for a skate to head out with someone who is experienced and has the equipment and gear necessary for skating on naturally frozen lakes. I would further like to extend my thanks to Clive Murphie who maintains Aardwolfs Natural Ice Reports. Without the community of people who help to support the page updating conditions of local lakes in the area.

Fred Van Slooten the father of Karl who also helped bring this entire trip together, and made Ice Skating on a natural lake possible for Matt & I