Dusky Track, Fiordland National Park, Southland – 12-15 December 2022 & 17-20 February 2023
Halfway Hut is the third hut on the Dusky Track that the Backcountry Trust's has targeted for catch-up maintenance. It is the last of the original Dusky Track huts that still had an open fire and this had recently failed an inspection and needed to be replaced.
The 12-bunk hut takes it name from being halfway up the Hauroko Burn, which provides access onto the tops of the aptly-named Pleasant Range
The roof was also past its best and was in need of the lead being removed as we are doing now for all huts in the mountain areas where there are kea present.
In December 2022, builders Clint Jarvis and Mark Williamson went in with the roofing maestro Vítek Kočandrle and Paul Chinn. Over four days they re-roofed the hut, removed the old fireplace and installed a new Wagner Cooktop wood burner. The weather was perfect the whole week and the team was able to get in and out from the Borland Saddle loading area as efficiently as possible.
The work completed by this team followed on from the renovation of Lake Roe Hut in 2021 and Spey Hut in 2020 by the Southern Lakes Branch of the NZDA.
Stage two to complete the Halfway Hut work was carried out by a Permolat Southland colunteer crew in February 2023. The team included Hayden Cohen, Garth Lornie, John McDonald, Karen Nicholson and Greg Wilson.
Here's their story: ‘On 17 February, the volunteers loaded up the Fiordland Helicopters’ shiny blue Squirrel with pails of paint, boxes of food, paint brushes and rollers, our packs, and a ladder. We flew over the mountains, along Lake Monowai (past Eel Creek hut which Permolat Southland worked on last year) to Halfway Hut. It was basked in sunshine.’
‘Halfway Hut is a 4-to-6 hour tramp from Lake Hauroko. The exterior paint was bubbling off the galvanised tin, so needed quite a bit of prep work before we could start painting. Thankfully the sandflies delayed their attack until later in the evening when some tired trampers started to appear. That night was noisy, with 10 in the hut, complete with snorers, multinational sleep-talkers and card-players.’
‘After waving the trampers off, our team got down to painting, inside and out, using a beautiful lichen colour. Hayden’s solar powered boom box provided some tunes. The fantastic weather allowed us to apply two coats of paint on the outside – despite the heat of working with full cover gear to avoid the sandflies (John even had a head net!). Meanwhile, the inside crew painted their way around the bunks, benches and signs. Inside was quite light and warm, thanks to the new skylights.’
‘Sunday was wet, so we swept out the hut and polished the tongue-and-groove floor with boiled linseed oil. It came up well. It wasn’t all work – there was quite a bit of eating, yarning, swimming in the cold river and deer-stalking.’
‘On Monday we packed up and tramped down to Hauroko Burn Hut, on the edge of Lake Hauroko. Some of us took 4 hours and others 6. Wairaurahuri Jet transported us back across the lake, with a stop en route at Caroline Hut, which Permolat Southland renovated a few years ago.’
‘We spotted no deer, but saw kea, bellbirds, robins, grey warblers, trout, and some native orchids too.’
‘Big thanks to DOC and the BCT who entrusted us with the job, to our Fiordland Helicopters and Wairaurahuri Jet for safely transporting us to and fro, and to Backcountry Cuisine who kindly keep us well fed. Awesome team work, excellent cooking, interesting conversations and fun all round!’