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Trip Report – Mt Alta & Buchanan Peaks

By: Keith Moffat

Source: Otago Climber Newsletter (Dec 2017)

With a big high hanging over the country there was no need to spend much time studying weather forecasts for the days leading up the trip to make the decision to proceed or not. There were six on the trip and we headed to Wanaka on the Friday night where we had a comfortable night at Geoff’ and Phil’s holiday houses.

Saturday morning dawned fine and clear and we were fording the Matukituki river by 9 am. Our route was across the farmland fiver flats, then up a 4WD track to about 900m. From here it was a tussock ridge line that took up to the top tarn of the pair of tarns at about 1400 m where we started looking for a camp site.

We found a great site by the lower tarn where we were surprised to find about a dozen tourists with their guide waiting for a helicopter pickup after their leisurely stroll in the mountains. We set up out camp and just after 3pm we headed for the Buchannan peaks leaving Jenny to guard the camp from the Keas.

The fresh snow that had fallen earlier in the week was down to our campsite but was patchy to about 1800 m. We picked a route on tussock and rock where possible, to avoid having to wallow in the soft snow. Just after 5 pm we were on the summit of Buchanan Peaks enjoying stunning views over lake Wanaka and toward Mt Aspiring.

We could have hung out there much longer, but the camp site and dinner were beaconing, so we headed back arriving back at camp about 7pm. We were hoping for a good freeze on Saturday night and we were rewarded when the alarm went off at 5pm. Jamming feet into half frozen boots is the down side to these early starts but the frozen snow made for fast travel to our objective of the day, Mt Alta.

The day was clear with cloud in the valleys. We made good time and on the final slopes to the summit we opted for the face rather than the ridge to where we enjoyed some front pointing on perfect firm snow.

We arrived on the summit at 9.30 am about the same time as the mist rolled in so we did not get the spectacular views we had enjoyed on Saturday. Visibility in the mist was minimal on our decent but we were able to follow our footsteps to retrace out route back to the camp for lunch.

It was then back to the cars with everyone feeling very satisfied with a great weekend in the hills.

Posted: 22/03/18

Posted By: Narina Sutherland