Distance: 19 km
Elevation gain: 1200 mView mapDownload GPS track
Red Peak is the unofficial name for a peak to the north of North Buller Pass. The more commonly-hiked Buller Pass is to the south of North Buller Pass. While the most direct route up Red Peak is via North Buller Pass, this avoids a significant portion of the wonderful scenery in the area, so we approached the peak via Buller Pass and returned via the north pass. This route does entail about 200 m of lost elevation that must be regained, but it's scenically worth it.
The trail begins directly across Highway 742 (the Spray Lakes Road) from the Mt. Buller day use area. It is in excellent shape nearly the entire way to Buller Pass, although there are a few sections with 2013 flood damage, and it is an easy hike all the way to Buller Pass. The only intersection of significance is about 4 km in, just over a bridge, where a trail to the left heads to North Buller Pass and a trail to the right heads to Buller Pass. I recommend heading right.
The final ascent to Buller Pass, despite appearances at a distance, is easy and the view from the top is spectacular. Red Peak is visible to the north and is recognizable as it is, well, red. To reach it from here, descend the steep east side of Buller Pass, continuing on the trail until it intersects or comes very close to the meadows that expand to the north. Shortcutting across rubble in an attempt to avoid further elevation loss would not be an energy-saver here. Once on the meadows head north towards Red Peak, sticking to the low point to avoid any unnecessary elevation gain. As you crest the high point on this col the route up Red Peak comes fully into view and simply involves ascending the meadowy lower slopes followed by an easy walk up talus and scree.
The one obstacle that may force a route change is an enormous cornice along the summit ridge of Red Peak. While from this vantage point there appeared to be an easy route through the cornice near its right-hand end, this was actually a massive and impassable gully. Thankfully there was a narrower section of snow here that with the aid of an ice axe we were able to ascend, but if you're ascending this peak earlier in July you may want to aim for the left-hand end of the cornice. While this would involve an annoying scree slog, your success would be more assured than aiming directly for the peak.
From either route, it's an easy walk to the summit after the cornice. A small talus peak on the ridge can be easily bypassed to the left. Views from the top are surprisingly nice and varied. Highlights include a closeup view of Mt. Bogart, a rock glacier to the northeast of Mt. Buller, and Sparrowhawk tarns far below as well as the usual sea of peaks all around.
To return to your car via North Buller Pass it is tempting to head directly for the pass along the scree and talus slopes between Red Peak and the pass to avoid any unnecessary elevation loss. We did this, but it was a stupid decision and replaced an easy decent on heather with sidesloping on lose talus and scree, all to save perhaps 100 m of elevation gain to reascend to the pass. It certainly didn't save any time either, so just descend the way you ascended and then head for the pass.
The route down the west side of North Buller Pass has been significantly affected by flooding, but a new route has been cairned and is reasonably easy to follow. Shortly after it enters trees the trail becomes very good; where it deposits you on the washed-out shores of the creek look for the trail on the other side (easy rockhop to cross). Connecting back up with the main trail, it's about an hour back to your car.