Darrans – The Beta

Logistics

The Darran Mountains lie west of Queenstown and east of Milford Sound, in the southwestern corner of New Zealand’s South Island.

The nearest airport is in Queenstown, where it is possible to fly direct from some Australian ports of origin. Alternatively, you can get to Milford Sound by bus from Queenstown, via Te Anau, although it is highly recommended you have a car if you intend to climb in this area as services are limited and you’ll need to drive the 90km or so back and forth from Te Anau for supplies.

There is backpackers’ accommodation within walking distance of the Babylon crags, so it would be possible to bus here and then walk to the crags and back if you really object to hiring/driving a car. That said most climbers stay at Homer Hut, which is historical, atmospheric, mostly sandfly-free and has climbing within metres of its door. Homer Hut is administered by the New Zealand Alpine Club, to which you must pay fees for staying (cheaper if you are a member). There is a warden present in the busy summer months to provide information and collect fees.

Steep valleys and winding roads. Tom Hoyle

Climbing

The sport cragging in the Darran Mountains/Milford Sound area is covered in a PDF guide available through the New Zealand Alpine Club. Click here for more information.
This guide only covers the low altitude cragging in the Cleddau Valley, so if you want to find out about the more adventurous rock routes and alpine opportunities, then it is also worth referring to Craig Jefferies excellent guide to the area, which you can find here. Development is ongoing and the best place to stay abreast of the most up to date information is from the new route book in Homer Hut, which also makes for highly entertaining reading when the weather issour.

Bring all your standard cragging gear, plus a raincoat and gumboots for when it rains and sturdy shoes you don’t mind getting muddy. Insect repellant is generally recommended for warding off the voracious sandflies, although if you stick to Homer Hut and the crags these aren’t usually a problem. The area is a huge tourist magnet and the tourist spots are worth visiting, but you’ll definitely need repellant for these.

Summer to early autumn is the time to visit, though it can still snow even then, so have warm clothes as well as your swimming togs.

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