Between two rivers
Celestial. Sublime. Godlike. Dramatic terms yes, but no exaggeration when describing the sun’s evening rays pouring out from behind the Scarlett Range. This alone was rewarding enough for the toil required to reach our campsite beside a little tarn nestled in a hollow at 1320m on Biggs Tops. But to enjoy the full magnificence of this lofty place required camping, because, given the right weather, sunrise is just as impressive as sunset.
It should be no surprise that Biggs Tops offers magnificent views, because it sits right at the southern end of the Luna Ridge system, offering unimpeded views from the north-east to the south-west.
Biggs Tops is a high point surrounded by rivers. Wangapeka Saddle, sitting at 1010m to the south-east, is the key. Not only is this where you access the mountain from the southern side, but also where the Karamea River originates, literally encircling the west and north sides of Biggs Tops as it begins its journey to the West Coast. And on the northern side of the saddle, the north branch of the Wangapeka River begins its long descent, eventually joining the Motueka River 30km or so to the east.
The quickest way to reach Biggs Tops is via the Wangapeka Track, first tracing the Wangapeka River from Rolling River car park to Stone Hut, a nice spot to stay the night. Then there’s an hour or so climbing through beech forest to Wangapeka Saddle. We dropped our packs there and scrambled up the Matiri Tops Route and on to the exposed Nugget Knob (1502m) from where we enjoyed panoramic views to Mts Patriarch, Owen and Kendall.
Back at Wangapeka Saddle, we climbed a spur to the north, through more beech and an impressive grove of grass trees (Dracophyllum). Above the tree line, the poled route traversed beneath Pt1457 and Pt1414 until it reached a small saddle at 1300m. The best camping spot is beside a small tarn to the east of the saddle.
To the north, the route soon begins its relentless descent back down to Karamea River.
The tarn, sitting in open rolling tussock land, offers a few suitable tent sites. But don’t get so transfixed by the views that you forget about your gear – kea and weka also like this lovely spot.
That evening, we enjoyed calm weather, finishing dinner just as the sunset drama began to unfold. And next morning, as the dawn light just kept getting better and better, I struggled to find time to eat my breakfast.
On the northern side, some 800m below Biggs Tops, is Trevor Carter Hut beside Karamea River. That was our next destination, once we eventually put our cameras down long enough to pack and get moving. From the hut, you have the option of walking out to the West Coast via the Taipo River, or circling back along the Lost Valley Track via Helicopter Flat Hut to rejoin the Wangapeka Track.
- Total Ascent
- Car park to Stone Hut, 6-8hr; Hut to Biggs Tops, 2-4hr
- Stone Hut ($5, 10 bunks)
- Rolling River car park on Wangapeka River Road
- BQ24, BQ23