Eyre Mountains / Taka Rā Haka Conservation Park – 14-16 February 2022
Following on from their excellent work on Mansion Hut, the Permolat Southland team have once again tackled another project in the Eyre Mountains. This time it was the basic two-bunk Irthing Hut, which lies in the headwaters of Irthing Stream, upriver from Mansion Hut.
The volunteer team that gave the hut a makeover included Lois Bishop, Naomi Brooks. John Hutt (Hutty), Jim McDonald and Jim Officer, with funding and support from the Backcountry Trust.
Lois Bishop tells the story: ‘The hardy volunteers met at Eyre Creek Station, from where James, the High Country Helicopter, flew us into the Irthing. As the area was quite boggy, with monkey scrub, sphagnum moss and icy tussock, it was difficult to find spots for five tents.’
‘The building supplies arrived and after morning tea we set to work. The sun came out and Jim took on the metal skirting for the bottom of the hut, helped by Naomi and myself.’
‘Hutty set about prefabricating the chimney and I started digging a hole for the dunny. This proved rather challenging with all the rocks, tins cans and rubbish.
‘Other tasks included: cleaning out the dirt and rubbish from the fireplace, measuring the chimney extension, wire brushing the outside cladding and filling in any holes as preparation for painting. This was a difficult job, and required two people because of uneven ground for the ladder. Once it was done, we got the first coat of paint on. By the time we had hand-cut the tin for the bottom skirting, it was 7 p.m.’
‘Our first challenge for day two was working out how to adapt the kitset toilet to fit the site. After the chimney extension was finished, we gave it two coats of paint. Then came the difficult task of securing it in place, and getting it straight.’
‘The skirting was completed around the hut and some patches repaired on the lower part of the chimney. Then came more painting.’
‘Jim made a woodshed and helped revamp the fireplace. We used rocks to level it, put in the steel insert, secured it with dyna-bolts and concreted it in place. More painting of the hut and the toilet ensued in the hot sun, requiring frequent breaks for water.’
‘Following a rough night of rain and wind, the morning brought some lovely birdsong, and a tomtit. Cool and misty. It was a day of final finishing jobs: making a ladder for the top bunk, completing the fireplace, adjusting the mantel and painting it, and making a new step at the entrance. Along with other minor tasks, we filled the new shed with firewood, cleaned the hut, and packed away rubbish and the very few leftover materials.’
‘Happily, we could fly out 50 years of accumulated rubbish: Army cans filled with nails, ammunition brassware, gas canisters, bottles, Watties cans and rusty billy lids, forks and knives.’
‘Despite a low mist blowing up the valley, the chopper pilot managed to get us out by late afternoon. Final thanks go to: Les Scown for digging a trench around the hut, my hut crew Hutty, Jim and Naomi. You were a talented, hard-working bunch and I enjoyed your company and the laughs. Appreciation also to Alastair MacDonald, Greg Wilson, High Country Helicopters, Back Country Cuisine, the Backcountry Trust and DOC.’