Trip Reports

Buller Huts Trail – April 2020

Craigs Hut Buller Huts Trail

Easter Traverse 2020

Three of us walked the Buller Huts Trail over Easter (2020), from the 2nd to the 8th.

Overall, we were so blessed with the weather, it was sunny almost entirely throughout (one day of thunder and a bit of light rain). Looking at the Buller cams, it’s covered in snow right now. We walked the reverse direction, heading to Craigs Hut first, due to worries about the amount of water at Bluff Hut and beyond and not wanting to haul heaps of water up from the Howqua with six days of food on board too (the appeal of doing the harder sections with more settled trail legs also was a factor).

Buller to Craigs Hut

Day 1: Buller to Craigs Hut (13km)

Kinda glad we did the trip in this order, as the day’s walking was a bit average, largely on 4wd tracks (which given it was Good Friday, were packed with 4wds). Mt Stirling was a nice little viewpoint, and our first chance to see our entire loop in the physical flesh. Couple of fellows up there with a golf club and balls which seemed a bit dangerous. Then back down to the hut for the night.

Beautiful views, which were highlighted very well when a helicopter landed near the hut and out stepped a freshly married couple doing their wedding photos. Felt a bit bad that our stinky socks were on full display as they wandered around in the dusk light. A number of people were camping at the hut, including a group who arrived around 10pm cranking Dr Dre (another group of hikers were unlucky enough to have them as neighbours for the night).

Craigs Hut to King Hut

Day 2: Craigs Hut to King Hut (13km)

Our first taste of the descent. Heading down from Craigs, the morning was beautiful, and we were feeling great. Found the entry to McCormacks Track easily enough and navigated it down to the King River (seeing two snakes along the way). Not for the first time, was happy we were not going in the opposite direction, it looks like a muddy climb. Cut the corner onto the King Basin Track, and enjoyed being able to stretch our legs out for a bit. Turfed our shoes at the first river crossing and kept our sandals/thongs on for the rest of the day.

One lady camping near one of the crossings came to see us get our boots all wet (her words), but was disappointed to see us just charging through in appropriate river walking footwear. King Hut was pretty well populated but we found a good spot near the crossing, next to the two hikers who had been disturbed the previous night by Dr Dre (they’d set up their hiking poles to bar vehicle access, understandably so). After a good rinse in the river, we lit our first campfire of the trip and relaxed for the evening.

King Hut to Camp Creek

Day 3: King Hut to Camp Creek/Speculation Road (12km)

Woke up to a few Easter eggs scattered around (courtesy of our hiking companion). After a nice little warm up walk, and communicating with some bush cows, we began the ascent of Muesli Spur, one of those annoying hikes that gets steeper the longer you go. But it was awesome to be leaving the Easter bustle behind and get some solitude happening, with most of the hikers we encountered heading to other destinations.

Eating lunch at the top of the spur was a highlight. Heading up Speculation Rd was again a nice way to stretch the legs out. About halfway along, we came across a nice little trickle which helped cool us in the warm afternoon sunlight. The population of the campground at the end was zero, so we spread out all over the place in typical hikertrash fashion. Plenty of water available in Camp Creek meant we could rehydrate and relax with another campfire. There were a few hikers coming down from Mt Speculation to resupply their water.

Camp Creek to McAlister Springs

Day 4: Camp Creek to McAlister Springs (~7km)

This day demonstrated our inexperience in alpine hiking & not being as fit as we’d like, we were aiming for Hellfire Creek originally. It was a cold morning and the sun hadn’t yet hit the campsite when we departed, heading up to Mt Speculation for breakfast. The valleys to the north were filled with cloud which was stunning to see. Then our traverse began. This was tough but stunning hiking. Every time we stopped to catch our breath, have some water, we were treated to amazing vistas on all sides. Simply incredible. We took a break on top of Mt Buggery, which looked a very pleasant place to camp. Then it was over the Crosscut Saw.

However, by the time we got to the intersection heading to McAlister, we’d realised that we had overestimated the challenge of the day and taken far longer than expected to do the traverse. With minimal water supplies and no lunch yet, we staggered into McAlister around 3pm and pretty much decided immediately that this was enough for the day. This of course meant we got to spend some time at the Vallejo Gantner hut (and in particular, the toilet with the best view in the world). It also meant the next day would be a bit longer but we were prepared to accept that. There was a crew from the Outdoor Ed school near Glenmaggie who were very cheerful, they were setting off on an 11 day hike over to Bogong I think. Poor buggers in this weather now.

McAlister Springs to Bluff Hut

Day 5: McAlister Springs to Bluff Hut (~19km)

After stacking up on water (we carried an extra 5 litres each, based on the fears about Bluff Hut), we headed back up to the intersection for brekkie looking over toward the Viking. A cloudy, windy morning meant that our views from Mt Howitt were a bit limited (but I did discover there is a Pokestop up there). Heading down, we ran into three fellows doing the AAWT, having completed 14 days so far (again, I feel for them right now). They did say that they had stayed at Hellfire Creek the previous night and there was apparently water there. We got to the Hellfire campsite a little later for morning tea but didn’t go look for the supply ourselves. Mt Magdala was a pretty epic climb and descent with our heavier packs, and the section until Bluff Track while beautiful, kicked our butts a bit and we took a breather once we made the track. Talking to another group of hikers told us about a possible water source near Lovicks (at the gate just after the hut, but we didn’t investigate it).

The road walk was again nice on our legs, and we skipped a few lookouts as we wanted our lunch. Reaching Lovicks, we spread out all our damp gear from the previous night and chowed down some food. Suitably refreshed, we smashed out the last few kms along the road, going over Mt Lovick and heading down to Bluff Hut. There was a family there already who were so lovely, they had brought and food some firewood for the hut, but also lit the campfire for us, gave us some couscous and FRESH CARROTS and were genuinely interested in our journey. And after all our fears, the tank was three quarters full. Oh well. A cold night beckoned, all our sleeping bags/quilts were done up tight that night.

Bluff Hut to Six Mile

Day 6: Bluff Hut to Six Mile campsite (~14km)

Yep, everything was damp and full of condensation when we woke up (we love our Gossamer Gear tent but we are still figuring out how best to handle the condensation). We lingered in the morning, our companions headed off for Craigs Hut and we waited until the sun came up a bit to dry things out a little before we set off. Walking up to the Bluff was very pleasant, we had visions of Lord of the Rings as we climbed. And not too steep, a good warm up for the morning. Had a snack on top of the Bluff, watching the dark clouds and hearing a few bursts of thunder (which continued throughout the rest of the day). Then, the descent, which was epic. I can’t imagine going up with a full pack on, again we were thankful we weren’t going the over way.

Our snail pace descent ended at the carpark, where we met a few people heading up to the top. Seeing them a bit later in the day, they told us they got hailed on up there. Lunch at Refrigerator Gap, then we began the descent via 8 Mile Spur. Some of us cursing at every metre descended as we knew we’d be going up it all again the next day. This descent dragged on a bit, and there was general relief when we hit the campsite. We then decided to push on a bit further, to shorten the final day and ended at the Six Mile campsite beside the river. Despite arriving in the dark, and getting to bed late, it was a great place to stay and we all slept deeply, lulled by the Howqua nearby. And yep, another campfire was had.

Six Mile Campsite to Mt Buller

Day 7: Six Mile Campsite to Mt Buller (~14km)

Another early start, and we made it to Gardner’s Hut for brekkie before our climb. And now, a self roast with a warning. Based on my research, the directions looked clear enough, and I had a gpx route on my phone which was 99.5% useful…so I didn’t have a paper map. However, the gpx map led us on a merry dance as it indicated Four Mile Spur commenced at the upper river crossing of the Low Track. But when we crossed, there was no spur track visible. After considering a bush bash along the path the gpx file indicated (not happily, it is full of blackberries), we began exploring other possible paths up to the Spur. Wading down the river to the commencement of the Spur, I was abashed to find that not only did the Low Track keep going, there was another crossing and THERE WAS A SIGN ON THE BANK FOR FOUR MILE SPUR TRACK. Sigh.

So, take this under advisement, don’t trust the gpx route on this little bit. Looking at a paper map afterwards, it was pretty clear where the track begins. Ah well, it’s all good experience. The epic climb commenced, beginning with some pretty steep sections, becoming easier in the middle, then getting steep and a bit treacherous towards the end (the section up and down the exposed thin rock spur was a bit scary as the wind had picked up). Halfway across, our hiking buddy was stung by a bee, letting out a deathly cry. Luckily he didn’t prove allergic. The final climb to the ski runs was tiring, the day was getting on and we were a bit over it by then. An icy wind was blowing over Buller, and so we bailed on actually going up to the peak. Heading down to the Village was a pretty awesome feeling, rolling down Bourke Street nearly literally. A quick dash to the toilet was followed by drinks and chips at the bar. Then we descended to Mansfield for showers, a kebab the size of my forearm, a local cider and a night’s sleep in a house that we didn’t have to build beforehand.

Overall, it was an awesome trip.

Well worth a look if you want a nice little alpine experience, the hike from Camp Creek to the Bluff on the walking trails was spectacular (even the vehicle trails weren’t too bad in this section). Would we do it again? Probably not (stuff doing Four Mile Spur again), but we would definitely do other parts, and perhaps use this as a base to explore some other areas in the region.

Trip report by Lachlan Davey

Note regarding day 7 and Four Mile Spur: The original GPX route for this section was created when there was no obvious access to the foot of Four Mile Spur. I have since updated the GPX file to reflect the more prominent access now available, so you can trust the file now. Darren Edwards

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