Kahurangi National Park, Nelson – May 2022
Nestled under the flanks of Mt Arthur in Kahurangi National Park is Ellis Hut, an important base for cavers, and a welcome haven for trampers too. Last year this great 6-bunk hut got some much needed attention from a Backcountry Trust (BCT) volunteer team of climbers and cavers, which including putting in a new cooking bench and removing of soil and rock under the hut to aid ventilation (see blog April 2021).
As is often the case, this working bee hatched even bigger plans. The two main goals were to replace the existing open fire with a decent wood-burner, and add a foyer to the hut for use by cavers to hang wet gear. The Ellis Basin is karst country, with several small sink holes visible around the hut, and cavers often return wet and dirty from their explorations.
The BCT once again funded the cost of materials and transport.
Tararua Forest Park, Wairarapa – March 2022
Carkeek Hut lies in the heart of the Tararua Ranges, and can be regarded as the most remote hut in the forest park. The six-bunk occupies a ridge-top position on the 6-bunk Carkeek Ridge, high above the headwaters of the rugged Waiohine River. It recently got a makeover by members of the ex-NZFS team, using funding from the Backcountry Trust.
Tararua Forest Park, Wairarapa – January 2022
High on a spur above the Waiohine valley lies McGregor Bivouac, a classic Forest Service era two-bunk dog-box bivvy. Nestled against the edge of the forest, the bivvy has commanding views north over the upper Waiohine catchment and the peaks of the northern Tararua Range. It’s most often reached from the Holdsworth Road end via the Atiwkahatu and Jumbo tracks. From Jumbo, a route over the tops, past Angle Knob, leads to a signposted turnoff that descends to the bivouac.
Built in 1966, the bivouac has been maintained over the years, but recently reports of it leaking reached John McCann, the man behind the ex-NZFS team. McCann organised for two members of the volunteer group, Grant Timlin and Roy Winterburn, both ex-cullers, to walk in and inspect the bivouac. They found that when the bivouac got new piles some years ago, this had exposed the bottom bearers. They also discovered that many of the old clouts in the cladding had completely rusted through.
McCann talked through options with Megan Dimozantos, the Backcountry Trust’s North Island manager. One option was a completely re-roof and cladding, and the other was replacing the clouts with screws and rubber washers. McCann, however, felt a complete re-clad was unnecessary, and that the screws would give the bivouac a ‘pimply’ appearance, undermining its authenticity. One the guiding principles of the exNZFS is to retain originality when possible.
Accordingly, Grant Timlin and Roy Winterburn flew in by helicopter in February 2022, and replaced all the clouts with new ones. They also added a skirting to protect the bearers from the weather, and replaced the window. An unoriginal ceiling seemed to be retaining moisture inside the hut, so this was removed. McCann hopes these solutions will keep the bivvy watertight.
The ex-NZFS team now maintains some 16 huts in the Tararua and Aorangi Ranges, and aims to ensure huts from the NZFS deer-culling era have a long life ahead. Next in their sights is some work on the Mid King Bivouac.
BALD HILL TRACK
West Coast – 25-27 March 2022
Bald Hill and Fraser Peak are twin summits on the West Coast’s Bald Hill Range, about 35 kilometres south of Hokitika. While only modest in height – about 1160 metres, these two peaks protrude above the bushline, offering good views of the Mikonui, Tōtara and Whitcombe valleys on either side. In March 2022, a team of Permolat volunteers worked on the route between the peaks, with funding from the Backcountry Trust. The crew included Ted Brennan, Andrew Buglass, Annie Hughes, Jane Morris, Joke de Rike and Geoff Spearpoint.
JOLLIE BROOK and COLD STREAM HUTS
Lake Sumner Forest Park, Canterbury – March 2022
In the southeastern quadrant of Lake Sumner Forest Park is the Jollie Brook catchment, which drains the mountains of the Glynn Wye Range. From the Lake Sumner Road, a track leads up the valley, connecting two huts. While Cold Stream Hut, located up a tributary of the same name, is a standard ex-Forest Service 6-bunk design, the 7-bunk Jollie Brook Hut itself is more unusual. It comprises a central living room, with bunkrooms on either side. The only other hut of this exact design is Three Mile Stream, also in Lake Sumner Forest Park.
In March, volunteers Greg Jarvis, Pete McBeth and Geoff Spiers got stuck in to restore both Cold Stream and Jollie Brook Huts, aided by a Backcountry Trust grant.
EEL CREEK HUT
Lake Monowai, Fiordland National Park, Southland – 11-15 March 2022
Lake Monowai curls like a sickle in the mountains of eastern Fiordland, flanked by the Kaherekoau Mountains on one side, and Cleughearn peak on the other. Beside its shores lie four huts: Monowai Hut, the two Rodger Inlet Huts, and Eel Creek Hut. Like some others in the area, Eel Creek Hut is an A-Frame design, and members of Permolat Southland restored it March, with funding from the Backcountry Trust.