Incredible views– Labour weekend - 22-24 October 2016
With a good weather forecast for the first two days but rain predicted for Monday, the four of us set off from Richmond at 7.30am on the Saturday morning. After a 2.5 hour drive we reached the well signposted turn off from the Lower Buller Gorge Road (SH6) to the Buckland Peaks Track. The car park is about 1km up this rather rough track. We were pleased to see no other cars in the carpark when we arrived but a couple with their two-year-old daughter arrived soon after us. We were surprised but relieved to know that their intention was to camp out on the tops. We had just over a one hour walk along a flattish farm road before going over a stile and following the track through manuka shrub land. The track starts to climb steadily uphill following a ridge. We had the odd break to photograph spider orchids or admire the view and stopped for lunch soon after midday. While the air was cool we were soon dripping in sweat with the steady uphill climb.
It was great to reach the bushline with superb views in all directions except for a threatening cloud bank over the distant Tasman Sea. We reached the tussock but soon noticed that there was another bush covered knob to climb before really getting into the open sub-alpine. Up on the ridge the hut was soon visible in the basin well below us and we arrived at the hut around 4.30pm. The hut which was rebuilt in 2002, has six bunks and is double glazed, but with there is no heating and little in the way of insulation, it was quite cool. There is water available from a tank near the door. The ground isn’t flat enough for good campsites around the hut with the best site perhaps being under the picnic table!
We woke reasonably early on Sunday morning and were off to Buckland Peaks by 7.30am. The cloud was building up over the sea so we were keen to reach the peaks while we still had a good view. From the hut we climbed back onto the ridge and along the top to the east. There is a narrow saddle to negotiate to get to the main summit but if you stick to the cairned track rather than the ridge crest the route is straight forward. We followed the track across the tops and soon reached one of the peaks. The views were superb with some low cloud over Murchison but the white peaks showing above the main Paparoa Range undoubtedly included Mt Cook and to the north we could see a long way up the coast. We visited all the small peaks, measuring which was the highest and relaxed in the sunshine. After lunch we made a leisurely trek back to the hut getting there before the low cloud obscured our route.
Just before we retired for the night a young hunter arrived at the hut. His walk up Ohikanui River and Dumpling Creek had proved to be a very cold experience. Next morning we were away by 7.30am trying to get back to the car before the rain started. With only a few brief stops on the downward journey we were at the car by 11.45am and beat the rain. We had lunch and then a stop at Murchison before arriving home by 3.15pm.
With the incredible views from Buckland Peaks this is a trip well worth doing and would be great to do again when the alpine plants are in flower. Trip members were Chris, Jo, Joy and Robert.