Kahurangi National Park, Nelson – April 2021
Nelson climber Ross Cullen and his mates were back in action again this year, following on from last year’s renovation of Larrikins Creek Hut. This time his focus was Ellis Hut, situated near the eastern bushedge of the Wharepapa/Arthur Range. It’s an important base for cavers exploring the local limestone labyrinths, but also hosts the occasional tramper too. The upper Ellis Basin is surrounded by the marble peaks of The Twins, Winter Peak and Mt Arthur, and even the terrain surrounding the hut features several small sinkholes.
Access to Ellis Hut from the Flora Carpark is via the Mount Arthur route, or up the long and rather arduous bush track in the Ellis River from the Baton Valley.
The 6-bunk hut has mattresses, an open fireplace, a bench and shelves, woodshed and toilet. Lines in the ceiling allow cavers and others to dry their gear overnight. Fresh water is sourced from a stream 50 metres distant. It has flat galvanised iron cladding, a corrugated iron roof, and a steel chimney and recently had a new ridge board and flashing fitted.
Built by the Forest Service in 1976, the hut was in generally sound condition but lacked free air flow under the hut, which caused moisture to collect on the piles and bearers on the eastern side.
After an inspection in December 2020, Ross prepared a plan for the hut, which was approved and funded by the Backcountry Trust. The main work required was fitting a new stainless steel, L-shaped benchtop and shelving, and some arduous work under the hut to create airflow.
The team consisted of volunteers Ross Cullen, Bruce Davies and Rod Woodward. They were greatly assisted by DOC ranger Tom Young and other DOC staff, whose local knowledge was very helpful in budgeting, organising logistics and managing costs.
In April 2021, materials, tools and personnel were transported from the Baton Valley onto site using a helicopter.
Maneuvering the new L-shaped bench into the hut required partially dismantling the porch. Rod removed the old bench and benchtop, secured the new bench unit, then fitted the bench-top. Afterwards, the porch was carefully reassembled.
Spare roofing iron, flat iron and other items were removed from under the hut. Bruce worked all day digging and removing earth, root and rocks below the subfloor. Ross shovelled the removed material into nearby sinkholes, and dug trenches beside the footings on three sides of hut. These trenches will provide drainage channels for rainwater falling from the gutterless roof. Rod joined Bruce and Ross in the excavation work, which was largely completed by the end of Day 2.
On Day 3, Rod drilled a hole in door for a new latch, installed and fixed it in place, and painted it to enhance visibility. The final work was completed on sub-floor excavation and trenches. Spare roofing iron and flat iron, louvre panes were placed back underneath.
Once the site was tidied up, and the rubbish packed, the team flew out by helicopter to the Baton Valley. Job done.