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.
Situated on the southern shores of Lake Monowai, the hut is 17 kilometres from the nearest roadend, located near point Campbell, where Eel Creek disgorges into the lake waters. It’s the third hut project completed by Permolat Southland over the last summer (the others being Mansion and Irthing Huts). Karen Nicholson provided the report.
The volunteers included Greg Wilson, Lois Bishop, John MacDonald, John Hutt, Adam Smith, Annabel Newnam, Bruce Best, Geoff Jukes, Karen Nicholson, Calum McLean, Theo and Scott. ‘It was no small job,’ Karen says, and took about 360 person hours.
‘Special mention to our boaties too for their generosity in the use of their boats. Also thanks to DOC, BCT, Wairaurahiri Jet, Tūātapere Outdoor and Hardware and Back Country Cuisine.’
In August 2021 Greg Wilson and Karen Nicholson paddled up Lake Monowai in a packraft and kayak to survey Eel Creek Hut. Built in 1964, the hut is nearing 60 years old, so needed some attention. After a successful application to DOC Te Anau for permission to do the work, Permolat Southland received funding from the Backcountry Trust for transport and materials.
Materials were supplied by Tūātapere Outdoors and Hardware, Marshall Industries, Southland Sheet Metal and Metro Glass.
On 11 March 2022, Johan of Wairaurahiri Jet transported all the materials up Lake Monowai, including Sandy Sanderson, Ian Laurensen, Warrick Anderson and John Hutt (‘Hutty’), who helped unload everything.
Hutty stayed at Eel Creek, and had already stripped the roofing iron, netting and silver paper off the Dexion frame by the time the rest of the volunteers arrived for the work party on 12 March.
With up to 12 volunteers working on several jobs in the same small clearing, it was a busy worksite. Over the next four days the team cleaned and wire-brushed the Dexion frame before painting it with galve paint. They painted one side of the ply sheets before fitting them to the frame. Roofing paper and battens were fitted over the ply, and Coloursteel fitted on the outside. The door was repaired and a new jamb fitted. One side of the porch was enclosed to create space for boots and packs, and broken windows repaired.
The fireplace proved to be worse than expected, so was rebuilt using a pre-made steel insert. ‘Wheel-barrows of gravel were laboriously pushed from the beach to make an all-weather path,’ say Karen, ‘and we removed a large rock which had stubbed our toes for decades.’
‘Wheel-barrows of gravel were laboriously pushed from the beach to make an all-weather path,’ say Karen, ‘and we removed a large rock which had stubbed our toes for decades.’
Some of the team built a new woodshed at the edge of the clearing, while others replaced damaged cladding on the toilet and re-painted it.
‘With near perfect weather,’ says Karen, ‘we tried to allow some time for a bit of hunting and fishing each day. While some camped at Eel Creek, others boated across to the Monowai Hut each night.’ Back Country cuisine supplied lots of the evening meals, making for quick and easy dinner preparation.
‘Unique challenges’, Karen records, included ‘sandflies, fitting metric materials to an imperial building and adjusting to the unique shape of Eel Creek Hut (the A frame isn’t an equal triangle and leans toward the lake).’
Rubbish and old iron were packed for evacuation by Johan of Wairaurahiri Jet and in light rain the team left for home on 15 March. After a concerted effort, Eel Creek Hut looks really good and is far more usable too. The last word goes to Karen: ‘All team members were great to work with and their efforts are much appreciated.’