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October 2014 Issue
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Perched high above Lake Wanaka

Descending Daniels Spur towards Lake Wanaka
Allow two days for the return trip
Drive to Homestead Bay car park, 18.4km west of Wanaka at the end of West Wanaka Road.
Buchanan Peaks, Mount Alta Conservation Area, Otago

When James McKerrow surveyed the lower Matukituki Valley and climbed Mt Alta in 1862, he was accompanied by the eminent botanist and painter John Buchanan. After him he named a cluster of three peaks overlooking Lake Wanaka, with elevations of 2004m (west), 1905m and 1880m (east). Today, the Buchanan Peaks are part of the Mount Alta Conservation Area.

Sheltered from the worst of the weather by the Southern Alps and with relatively gentle slopes and ridgelines, the Buchanan Peaks are an achievable target for most trampers. Do not underestimate the size of the climb though (Lake Wanaka is at 279m) and beware of the lack of water anywhere on the mountain.

The landscape coated in golden tussock and devoid of forests makes for unimpeded views of Mt Aspiring and the great lakes of Central Otago. Recreational opportunities exist for a wide variety of outdoor enthusiasts. The Minaret Burn Track at the toe of the mountain is open to mountain biking and horse riding (permission required from West Wanaka Station for the latter), and there is great camping at the mouth of the Rumbling Burn.

The approach to the Buchanan Peaks via Daniels Spur from the east makes for a solid walk but without any difficulties, while a traverse of all three peaks requires a good head for heights over some easy but entertaining scrambling in places.

In winter and spring the peaks are covered in snow, and are often visited by ski-tourers, who appreciate the long, open runs on moderate slopes descending into the Rumbling Burn or to Lake Wanaka. A scenic campsite with water exists by a tarn just beneath the eastern summit, but beware of high winds – there is nowhere to shelter.

– Danilo Hegg