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Buckland Peaks, Paparoa National Park

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December 2020 Issue

Overnight on the Paparoa Range

Buckland Peaks Hut is one of only a handful of huts in the Paparoa Range. While it makes a good day trip, it’s the perfect location for an overnight tramp, allowing you to explore the massive granite playground beyond the hut.

The track begins with an hour’s walk across a public easement on farmland to reach the bush edge. It’s a good warm-up for the steep stuff that follows and there are great views of the Paparoa Range dead ahead.

Once at the bush edge, the track climbs through cutover forest for a short while before entering a diverse podocarp beech forest. It’s never too steep and the forest is remarkable, with large and twisted southern rata dominant along the ridgeline.

The halfway point is clearly marked with a sign, ‘Halfway House’, where a small clearing with a plastic water tank (not to be relied upon and probably best for emergency use only) is a good place for a break. Not long after, a larger clearing provides tantalising views of the distant Buckland Peaks ahead.

A further climb, through forest, leads to the ridge overlooking the hut, which sits in a basin about 100m below. It’s perched at the bush edge, faces due north to capture the sun and has expansive views across the forest and out to Cape Foulwind. There’s no fire or other heating and other users have commented that it can be cold in winter. The location is very pretty, situated amongst stunted silver beech and subalpine shrubland, with a small stream close by.

Our plan was to camp on the tops, so instead of dropping to the hut, we followed the ridge above the hut and then the poled route onto the summit of Buckland Peaks. The summit is an undulating plateau of granite boulders, rocky pavements and outcrops, tussocks and small tarns with lots of campsites. Hours can be spent exploring and botanising amongst this wonderland.

We followed a series of cairns which took us to the southern edge of the plateau where it dropped dramatically into the Totara River. The views down the spine of the Paparoa Range were stunning. A jumble of steep and formidable peaks and spires spreads south as far as the eye can see. From our campsite, we enjoyed extensive views to the north across layers of ridges until the cloud rolled in and sent us to our sleepings bags early. Sadly we didn’t hear any great spotted kiwi calling during the night but we did see their footprints in some mud the following day.

In the morning, cloud still enveloped the tops and with no visibility, we were very appreciative of the poles on our descent to the hut for breakfast. In cloudy weather, navigating above the hut on Buckland Peaks can be confusing. Be sure to stick to the poled route and remember West Coast cloud can roll in at any time.

We descended the ridge into full sunshine, fully satiated after our visit to such a splendid location. For a taste of the remote and rugged northern Paparoa Range, Buckland Peaks is a fine entrée.

Total Ascent
To Buckland Peaks Hut, 4-5hr; To Buckland Peaks, 2hr
Buckland Peaks Hut ($5, six bunks)
Signposted from SH6 on Lower Buller Gorge Road

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